Nonprofits Pivot to Serve Children

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Posted By on June 10, 2020

In March, when Gov. Doug Ducey announced that Arizona schools would close to help fight the spread of COVID-19, Desert Voices was on spring break. A nonprofit school that teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing children how to speak, Desert Voices had to get creative.

The school teaches children born with hearing loss how to speak oral language — no signing, no cuing, no lip reading. That requires face-to-face therapy and programs. So turning to what all schools have employed, virtual technology, was key to keeping the students — aged about 8 weeks old to 6 — progressing, or at the very least maintaining where they were when they last were at school.

What they discovered was that during this tough time, their community rallied. The teachers, speech-language pathologists and families joined forces to serve all of the school’s students with a combination of teletherapy, classroom activities and family support. “Because of our teachers and their creativity, the families and children are more comfortable with this new reality,” said DeeAnn Chapman, executive director of Desert Voices. “We have found our silver lining, and it is us.”

Meanwhile, the Civitan Foundation found its own win-win. A nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Civitan is one of several food providers in Arizona’s Summer Food Service Program, which feeds underserved youth during the summer.

Meals are prepared by Civitan’s ‘Cook-er-y,’ a culinary program at Civitan Village that is fully comprised of chefs with disabilities. Civitan then distributes meals to children in need at nine locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Goodyear and Williams.

“Our locations are especially unique because two at-risk groups — the special needs community and underserved youth — are truly serving one other,” said Kevin Gregg, Cook-er-y’s culinary director. “Thousands of youth need food during these challenging times, and our differently-abled members need job support. It’s a perfect match.”

Karen Werner

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.