On December 10th from 11am – 8pm, we have the opportunity to earn money for the foundation with our very own Shop for a Cause Event! Please join me in a shopping trip to Busy Bee Toys at 58 E. State St. in downtown Doylestown.
How can you help? Bring your family and friends to this wonderful locally owned toy store and when you make a purchase, a percentage of your sale will come back to the RJ Leonard Foundation! All you have to do is mention that you are shopping for the foundation in store or add a note in the comments section of your online purchase. Easy Peasy! The more people that shop, the more money we will receive to use toward Scholarships for our Fellows. So please help make this a success and shop for OUR cause!
Don’t have children to shop for? No problem! Busy Bee Toys has great games and puzzle for adults! Or, you can even make a purchase for Toys for Tots and Busy Bee Toys will make sure the donation goes to the Marines and into the hands of a needy child!
Hope to see you there!
What do you do when you’re the sole caregiver to your young children and you’re not just diagnosed with COVID-19 but knocked down by its symptoms? How do you pay the bills? How do you take care of them? How do you take care of you?
The answer to these questions are easier for those with a network of people and a financial foundation they can rely on, but they’re impossible for others to answer.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we work to help our Fellows build a network of individuals and resources they can turn to in times of need, so that when a global pandemic becomes a personal crisis, they aren’t alone.
Click here to learn more about the Foundation and how you can be a part of that network.
This year, the holidays look different. Crowded family parties are giving way to more intimate celebrations, as the COVID-19 numbers continue to climb throughout the country. For many - particularly parents - the pared down festivities mean a little extra where possible: perhaps a few more gifts, favorite desserts after dinners or new traditions that infuse an ounce more of magic into 2020.
However, that little bit of magic isn’t possible for everyone. For many, COVID-19 didn’t just lead to smaller gatherings. It resulted in job loss, reduced hours and other forms of financial instability. Many of our Fellows have seen their incomes reduce over the past 8 months with few signs that it will restore in full any time soon. For them, the holidays will be a reminder of the obstacles they continue to face.
But they don’t have to be. You can help infuse that little bit of magic into their days by helping us fulfill their wishlists. Click here to purchase a gift for a Fellow or their children, making the end of 2020 a little brighter.
We already know - because so many of us are experiencing it firsthand - that the isolation and uncertainty that come with a global pandemic are impacting mental health. In August, the CDC reported that 40% of Americans acknowledged struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations and/or substance use.
Now, researchers are finding that a diagnosis of coronavirus could be associated with an increased risk of a mental health diagnosis. A recent study found that nearly one in five individuals diagnosed with coronavirus are, within three months, diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The prevalence is greater than with individuals who struggled with other physical conditions, such as the flu.
Why this is and how mental health concerns will develop in the long-term remains unknown. But the findings remind us of an important message: We must not lose sight of our mental health in our concern for physical health.
Practice self-care, seek help when needed, don’t be afraid to admit your struggles and encourage loved ones to do the same.
Late Sunday night, CNN’s homepage headline took a break from politics. Instead, the news organization led with “Thousands of cars form lines to collect food in Texas” The accompanying photograph was of those cars, as they waited their turn at a food bank in Dallas.
The article and imagery serve as an important reminder as we head into Thanksgiving and the holiday season. People - families - are struggling. COVID-19, the lockdowns and the economic uncertainty have affected everyone, but the financial impacts have been felt harder by some. And as much as we would like for this year and this pandemic to be behind us, it just isn’t.
If you have the ability to give this holiday season, please do - whether to the R.J. Leonard Foundation, another organization or a friend/family you know personally. 2020 is not the year to sit out on kindness and generosity.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we employ the Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach in our work with Fellows. This nationally recognized model is, as executive director Joelle Pitts puts it, “more than a strengths based approach.” We virtually sat down with Joelle recently to give you a better understanding of the approach and its use at the Foundation.
What is your history with Positive Youth Development (PYD)?
I was introduced to PYD in 2004 when working at a group home for girls. I immediately felt that this was an approach that aligned with my beliefs and values, and to top it off, my professional mentor was highly respected within the PYD field. He frequently wrote and presented on the topic and was also a leader in introducing the concept at a national level (PYD is now a required programming component to receive RHY federal grant funding).
I have since trained on PYD regionally and nationally, and implemented it in programming in multiple settings including a youth shelter, independent living programs and housing programs.
What are the key elements of Positive Youth Development?
PYD is a mindset and a belief that young people are whole and not broken. There are four key elements. They are:
When truly treated like a partner, young people feel valued as a person and as the expert in their own life. This makes them more likely to trust and build meaningful relationships. They begin to see strengths in themselves and can see how to connect those strengths to meaningful goals. Young people learn that their voice matters and that they can impact their lives and communities. All this builds self worth, a belief in a better future and the internal motivation needed to overcome the many barriers they face
What impact does adopting a PYD approach have on the professionals working with youth and young adults?
Employing PYD can be uncomfortable at first for professionals. We train adults to think they can and should control young people and that controlling them is in their best interest. Some people struggle to let that false sense of control go.
However, adults that embrace this approach tend to have deep, meaningful connections to young people. They build trust more quickly and are better at helping young people problem solve and goal plan.
How does the R.J. Leonard Foundation incorporate PYD into its work with young adults aging out of the foster care system?
Everything we do at RJLF is rooted in PYD and therefore is very intentional, individualized, strengths-based and meaningful. For example:
This year has been filled with a great deal of firsts and, even more so, the unexpected. Last Friday was no different. We held our first RJLF virtual gala on October 9 at 6 p.m. Although we had a few technical difficulties, we got through it with a great deal of heart, fun and teamwork.
That was our first.
What was unexpected was the incredible generosity from all of you. Your donations, whether in the form of a standard donation, ticket order or auction bid, surpassed not just our goal but our dreams as well. We cannot thank you enough for your ongoing support of our mission and, more importantly, our Fellows.
We hope to be with you in person next year, but if we’re not, we know that being together online and in heart will be more than enough.
Join the R.J. Leonard Foundation for its virtual gala Heart for Change: Together in Heart on Friday October 9th from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.!
The R.J. Leonard Foundation (RJLF) works with young adults aging out of the foster care system in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, offering them financial support as needed for education, transportation and social/cultural needs. Most importantly, however, RJLF is a mentorship program. The young adults connected with the program - Fellows - are matched with adults in their community. Together, the Fellows and Mentors work to make possible the Fellows’ career and educational goals, while fostering a lifelong relationship.
Through mentorship, RJLF works to disprove the statistics about youth aging out of the foster care system. Statistics that say only 3% will graduate from college; 20% will experience homelessness; and 49% of youth aging out of foster care will do so without a connection to family.
“RJLF really does help you pursue whatever it is you’re passionate about. I have also always felt safe being able to communicate and problem solve with them. It’s a truly special and non-judgmental zone and relationship. RJLF is a family to me, and I to them,” reflects one Fellow.
In the 11 years since RJLF’s inception, the Foundation has worked with 25 young adults as they have striven to earn their degrees and move onto fulfilling and financially freeing careers. Help us continue our work by donating and/or joining us at our virtual gala Heart for Change: Together in Heart. The one-hour event will include testimonials from Fellows, entertainment and access to a live and silent auction.
The R.J. Leonard Foundation knows that with the right resources, help and caring, every story - no matter how it starts - can end in success.
To purchase tickets or make a donation, visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/hZ0/.
September 10 is International Suicide Prevention Day.
As of 2017, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. What’s more, it is estimated that youth in foster care are almost three times as likely as the general population to have had suicidal ideations.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we are committed to providing our Mentors and Fellows with the information and resources they need to seek help and/or offer appropriate support. We believe that training, awareness and knowledge can make a difference.
Suicide is preventable. Be a part of the prevention.