A local nonprofit that provides programs and quality services to empower abused children, youth and families got an added boost thanks to the students in the College of Human Sciences Grantmaking for Philanthropists class as they presented a $2,500 check to the Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services Child Advocacy Center based in Opelika.
The inaugural grantmaking course that started in spring 2021 with just six students has now grown to 20 students for the 2023 spring semester and is led by Assistant Professor of Philanthropy and Nonprofits studies Dr. Peter Weber, in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences.
Throughout this semester, Weber helped students understand nonprofits and philanthropic grantmaking, as students developed mission and vision statements, conducted a needs assessment, analyzed grant proposals, and conducted site visits. Students learned the hard skills of grant writing and measuring social impact, as well as the importance of collaboration while working in a group setting and more.
The $2,500 distributed through this course was provided by the Community Foundation of East Alabama as they serve as a local center for philanthropy by working with individuals, families, corporations, private foundations and nonprofit organizations to help them achieve their charitable objectives and address emerging community issues. Two board members Vanessa Echols and Dr. Shirley Lazenby were on hand to listen to the students experiences prior to the check being presented to Twin Cedars.
After reviewing 18 grant proposals from local nonprofits, the 20 students narrowed down the choices and ultimately chose the Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center as they presented the $2,500 check to Twin Cedars Program Coordinator LaTrivia (Tori) Mayers and her team for the winning proposal on May 1.
The mission of Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center is to facilitate and achieve healing and justice for abused and neglected children by providing core services of forensic interviewing, family advocacy, trauma focused therapy, and forensic medical exams using a trauma informed multidisciplinary team approach.
After receiving the check, Mayers reassured students in the class that the money received by Twin Cedars would continue to help abused children get the critical care and exams needed to facilitate the healing process.
“I did not take for granted how hard it was for you all to make this decision and how difficult it was to narrow it down to just us,” Mayers said. “I want you to know how we plan to use the money and our SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) program is not that old. Before, our children were sent to Birmingham and a lot of these families couldn’t afford to drive to Birmingham. We reached out to the community and we found nurses and had them trained so they could do site visits at the child advocacy center. Our agency is all about making sure that we help victims of abuse feel empowered and their families find balance, healing and justice. I want you to know that the difficult work that you have done this semester will go to an amazing cause and help children continue to get medical exams.”
One student who advocated for Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center was Chloe Czapla, a senior majoring in philanthropy and nonprofit studies. Czapla interned with the organization last summer and spoke of the impact it had on her and why the grant money will be put to good use.
“It is definitely beneficial because they were asking for money for the SANE exams and I was actually able to sit in on a few SANE exams and I was able to say I knew the process even down to copying the paperwork and mailing it off,” Czapla said. “Some of these SANE exams can cost anywhere between $650-800 but the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission only reimburses $450 so there’s a deficit there. This is the only organization in this area that does these exams with the next closest being Birmingham so it’s definitely beneficial.”
The transformative experience of interning with Twin Cedars Child Advocacy Center convinced Czapla to go to law school after graduation.
As it pertains to the knowledge gained during the grantmaking course, Reagan Myers, a senior majoring in Philanthropy and Nonprofit studies as well as Human Development and Family Sciences, said she now understands the importance of a positive grantor/grantee relationship.
“In the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies major we have gotten so many hands-on opportunities to learn from nonprofits in the area and from professionals in the field but this is the first time I’ve gotten to see the other side of it, the funder side of it,” Myers said. “I actually accepted a job at a nonprofit here and one of my responsibilities is going to be writing grant proposals and this experience has prepared me to do that. Now I know what a good proposal looks like and what needs to be prioritized.”
For more information on philanthropy and nonprofit studies within the College of Human Sciences, visit humsci.auburn.edu/cads/philanthropy.php.