Disadvantaged Kids

Providing natural world experiences, conflict resolution training, books and educational initiatives for kids facing hardships of any kind.

Books to Kids in Toledo

In 2016 Books to Kids began the first distribution of slim readers to children in the Toledo District. This partnership between Plenty Belize and Plenty International builds upon the Books to Kids project run by Plenty International in Tennessee and Louisiana, USA. We provide books to children to own and have in their homes, approximately monthly, with the goal of the children building a small library of 10 or more books to read, trade, and enjoy.

Plenty Belize uses the help of board members, staff, and local volunteers to distribute the books, making this project efficient on a low budget. We have been distributing at:

  • Jacintoville
  • Santa Anna
  • Crique Sarco
  • Barranco
  • Punta Gorda Library After School Program
  • University of Belize Reading Club
  • Eldridge
  • Jalacte
  • Graham Creek

The children at each site choose their own book from those provided (there are always extra to choose from), and the site coordinator ensures that a record is kept of the children and their book choices. We also keep track of the reading level (below, average, above) as reported by the teachers. The coordinators often enter into discussions with the students about the books they have read, encouraging reading and literacy.

Plenty Belize looks forward to continuing this project for the next several years!

 

Books To Kids

Since 2006 Books To Kids volunteers have distributed free, quality books to disadvantaged children in Louisiana, Tennessee, and most recently, rural Kentucky. As of June 2018 over 250,000 books have been provided to children through schools, families, community centers and libraries.

Books To Kids was started by Nashville, Tennessee resident Jim Selin, who had assisted Plenty in relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Jim saw first hand the devastation experienced by families in New Orleans and wanted to help.

Books To Kids Program Director, Jim Selin, with kids in in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.

Books To Kids is a way to help children move beyond trauma, cope with the difficulties of economically challenged neighborhoods, and ultimately, to increase their academic success.

Books To Kids promotes literacy and a love of reading.  With these skills, children are better equipped to make informed life choices. The program focuses on children up to age 11. These are the years when a child’s academic foundation can have its most powerful effect on both the child and their family.

Thirty four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20%. (Source: Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count 2011). Poverty and early stress impact not only a child’s day-to-day life, but also the choices and opportunities she or he has to create future happiness and success.

Most of the children served by Books To Kids live below the poverty level, with the vast majority on the free or reduced lunch program at school.  In short we strive to reach those in greatest need. Over 7000 kids are served annually by Books To Kids.

After Hurricane Sandy blasted coastal New York and New Jersey, Books To Kids distributed books in neighborhoods that had been hit.

Book acquisition operates year round. Books provided are chosen utilizing guidelines regarding illustrations, language, and content.  Volunteers help with acquisition, distribution and related tasks. Volunteers:

  • Acquire quality books from libraries, families, thrift and used book stores, yard sales, and other sources.
  • Process, box and label books for distribution.
  • Transport the books to schools and community centers, which distribute the free reading materials directly to children.

About four distribution runs to the Gulf coast area, Middle Tennessee and Appalachia take place annually. Current Gulf Coast distribution sites include

  • Arise Academy Charter School, New Orleans
  • Mildred Osborne Elementary School, New Orleans
  • Boothville-Venice Elementary School, LA
  • Arabi Community Center, LA
  • Point Aux Chenes community, LA
  • The Lower Ninth Ward Literacy project, New Orleans
  • Isle de Jean Charles families, LA
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell LA
Kids living on Isle de Jean Charles, an island off the coast of Louisiana that is gradually eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, examine their new books from Books To Kids.

Current Middle Tennessee sites include Highland Park Elementary School in Columbia, The Farm School and Kids To The Country program in Summertown.

Sites in rural east Tennessee and Kentucky include Mountain Communities Parent Resource Center/Wynn Habersham Elementary School in Campbell County, Tennessee, and the Books To Kids Reading and Tutoring Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The Center also distributes books to elementary schools in Whitley County, Kentucky.

Research has demonstrated the correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and their academic success. That is why the majority of Books To Kids books, while distributed in schools, are destined for students’ homes, to be shared with family and friends.

Books were given away during the Literacy Parade in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.

Some books are donated to school libraries and some are used in accelerated reading programs.

Volunteers in Tennessee and New Orleans keep building new relationships with school principals, community center directors, and other children’s programs that suggest additional sites where books are needed and will be distributed.

Maria Prout, Principal of Boothville-Venice Elementary School says:

”When Jim brings books we organize them and set them out on a table in the library with a sign that says “Free Books from Mr. Jim”. We encourage the teachers to take their classes to see the books.

The children are then able to take home books they select. Since we’ve been able to build up our school library, we wanted to give the kids the opportunity to actually take books home.

The teachers work with the kids on how to organize their home libraries according to genre, author. Sometimes a student will bring back one of the books that they particularly liked to offer them to other kids or ask their teacher to read it to the class.

I would like to see more books from Plenty because our big push right now is literacy. The more we can get books into the hands of the parents that they can read to their kids and the more we can get books into the hands of the kids, the better our community is going to be.”

Dawn LaFonte, Principal:

”Thank you so much for the visit and the books you graciously brought to Pointe aux Chene and Oaklawn Jr. High. The students were delighted to have them. We frequently have visits at Oaklawn Jr. High by students who are mentally and physically impaired.

The law states that they must be included on a regular school campus, which delights me. However, we frequently don’t have materials on their level.

Your last drop of books to me had several wonderful Indian stories on their level. We shared them in the library and they were so excited!

The regular students in the library were excited to read to the challenged students as well. That was a blessing I did not think I would see!

Thank you for making such an important difference in the lives of our students. It means so much!”

Taking into account all expenses of acquisition, transportation and distribution, each book is provided to a child at a cost of approximately 55 cents.

Our greatest need is to add more volunteers and funding to continue and grow Books To Kids. Your donations and support are greatly appreciated!

For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/bookstokids or contact info@plenty.org 

Kids To The Country

Plenty’s Kids To The Country (KTC) program offers at-risk urban kids the opportunity to take a break from troubled situations and develop a connection to nature through hands-on experience.  KTC takes place on 1750 acres of woods, fields and streams south of Nashville on Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The land belongs to a 50 year-old intentional community called the Farm, which has hosted KTC since 1986 and has about 200 permanent residents today.

KTC kids come from homeless shelters, refugee centers, and low-income neighborhoods. More than 5000 children have participated since the program began.

summer-crafts1
A KTC craft-making session next to the “swimming hole,” a pond with a sandy beach, which is a favorite spot for the kids.

Kids To The Country also provides the opportunity for kids to:

  • experience a multicultural environment
  • build a positive sense of community
  • learn nonviolent conflict resolution skills
  • develop healthful relationships
  • expand their world view
bike riders
The Farm has lots of safe places to ride bikes.

KTC structures activities to form lasting feelings of accomplishment and self-worth in each child. The nature school curriculum helps every youngster develop a connection to the rhythms of nature.

counselor-2-girls-in-the-water
Swimming lessons in the “swimming hole.”

Many former KTC kids return to become counselors in training.

Many of the youngsters we get to know live with the daily threat of random violence. One expressed  “I bet there’s no shoot-outs here like there are in my neighborhood.” In recent times we’ve seen the unthinkable happen in our schools and in our cities. We know that ignoring the needs of children in our communities ultimately affects us all. To find out how you can help or participate in the Kids To The Country program, please email us, or write to: KTC, 425 Farm Road, Suite 3, Summertown, TN 38483. Donations to KTC are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

For more information about Kids To The Country please visit us and like us on Facebook here.

2014 Fall/Winter Bulletin

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Kids To The Country

Kids To The Country is an outdoor, experiential, education program for at-risk urban children and is Plenty’s local project. In Nashville Tennessee, nearly a third of all children live in poverty. Many of these kids live in single parent or caregiver households, or have parents who are incarcerated or are in drug treatment. At times their lives can feel bleak and hopeless. Our goal has been to open the minds of such children to the possibility of a future very different from their present.

Since 1986, Kids To The Country (KTC) has offered at-risk youth aged 6-11 a chance to get out of the city and experience nature through healthy, hands-on activities. These youngsters are referred to KTC from homeless shelters, refugee centers and other community groups working in low-income neighborhoods in Nashville. KTC’s summer sessions take place at the 1750 acre Farm Community in Summertown, an area filled with miles of natural beauty. KTC staff and volunteers include trained youth counselors, teachers, artists, musicians, water-safety and horse-riding instructors, and health care professionals. Activities include nature study, developing conflict resolution skills, swimming, dance, horseback and bike riding, story telling, gardening, arts and crafts, a talent and art show, and lots of one on one attention. Program staff and counselors actively teach kids (and model themselves) how to cooperate with others, take responsibility for their actions, deal constructively with anger and conflict, and build lasting friendships in a multi-cultural setting.

The goal of our new KTC Leadership and Counselor Development Program is to screen KTC “graduates” and teens to participate in the KTC program as youth leaders/counselors. Last year we expected our four-day intensive training to be both a powerful experience for thirteen to fifteen year-olds and provide a pool of trained urban counselor apprentices. These expectations have been met and exceeded. We have been delighted by the impact that being a KTC counselor has had on the teenagers that serve on our youth staff and our young counselors-in-training from the city.
Special thanks to the Bay and Paul Foundations.

A KTC Volunteer’s Story by Jamie Neal Jackson
It was the third day of Kids to the Country, and counselors and kids alike were all having a great time down by the swimming hole eating watermelon and splashing around. I looked behind me and saw one little boy (we called him D) off by himself, quietly crying. I approached D and asked him what was wrong? I had thought we were all having a really good time together. Well, this nine-year-old little boy began, “Jamie, I just love Kids To The Country so much, and I don’t ever want to leave here. I’m just so thankful to be able to be here, but I just, I just feel bad because I feel like every kid everywhere should get to come to Kids To The Country. I just feel so blessed!” I was astounded at the amount of emotion filling this little boy up while all of his friends were running around having such a wonderful time.

D and I spent a long time talking about how much he appreciated the counselors at KTC and how much we counselors enjoyed being able to spend so much time with kids like him. After a while I steered D over to the snacks and crafts table and we began to chat and joke around more lightheartedly. But this little boy’s strength and emotion stuck with me for a long time. I knew then that Kids To The Country was accomplishing something truly life changing and powerful, both for the kids and for us, the counselors. I am so grateful!

KIds To The Country

This was KTC’s 27th summer. Nearly 100 kids from inner city Nashville came down to the 1750 acre Farm Community near Summertown, TN where they had a chance to cool off  in a creek…ride horses….and pick blueberries, to name just a few of the activities.

Next KTC event: December 20 Kwanzaa and Gift-Making Holiday Gathering in Nashville.

Special thanks to Fred Bay and the Bay and Paul Foundations, Dr. David and Janet Winek, PeyBack and P.E.A.C.E. Awareness Foundations, and Whole Foods.

Kids To The Country

This past year ninety-three kids took a break from urban strife and experienced nature close up during KTC’s
summer program. Peacemaker classes and role-plays dealing with real life situations helped the children practice problem-solving skills.

“Mothers and Others Day” brought kids and their mothers or caregivers together to experience KTC for a day in July.

Over 60 children made gifts for their loved ones and celebrated the principles of Kwanzaa, which include taking personal and community responsibility, at KTC’s Winter program.

Kids To The Country and Books to Kids provided books to each child at every KTC summer session and Kwanzaa
celebration. Many of these children do not have books at home and they are a special and valued gift.