Special Memories Program
Many of the homeless who enter New Ground have not had the opportunity to develop the positive memories associated with living in a stable family setting. Our families and veterans have often had to forgo celebrating holidays and special occasions while homeless. Through our Special Memories Program, New Ground organizes and underwrites many recreational, cultural and celebratory events throughout the year to provide memorable experiences for every child, parent and veteran – so they too will have special memories of their own to cherish.
Each year we recognize birthdays for every adult at New Ground. Donations are coordinated to ensure that each receives a birthday card and gift certificate so they are sure to have at least one acknowledgment of their special day. A list is also generated so that every child in the program receives a birthday card from New Ground mailed directly to their home. Sometimes this may be the only positive mail the family receives for months.
As our families qualify for the free lunch program for school-aged children during the academic year, when children are home for winter recess the additional food cost is an added financial burden on an already tight household budget. New Ground donors assist in providing each family with gift certificates to local grocery stores and/or baskets of food supplies so the children are well-fed during their school breaks.
Donors prepare Easter baskets for those families that celebrate, as well as food baskets for the families who have children home from school for the Passover and Easter holidays. Grocery gift certificates may also be provided to assist with preparing a holiday meal as well as feeding the children when home on school vacation.
Each year New Ground hosts a Mother’s Day Celebration honoring all LTHP and JSP mothers. In past this has included a brunch for all the mothers, leaving children at home for a true morning off, or an afternoon for the mothers at a local spa for manicures and pampering. Our mothers really enjoy the outing, taking the opportunity to relax with others in the program while sharing laughter and stories.
Each year we recognize New Ground fathers with a greeting card and gift certificate so they may treat themselves to something special that might otherwise not be affordable throughout the year. June is also the month for celebrating graduations and we recognize all of our school graduates with cards and gifts to acknowledge their great achievements.
Through the Special Memories Program, New Ground operates our Summer Camp Program to assist with the costs of sending LTHP and JSP children to camp. Some of the children attend sleep away camp for a few weeks at a time, while others attend day camps locally on Long Island. For many participants, this is their first opportunity to sleep away from home and/or out of state. Going to summer camp gives our children the chance to make new friends, learn new skills, and function in completely different environments. Donations specifically for this Summer Camp Program go toward the cost of summer camp as well as outfitting the children with the necessary supplies.
New Ground’s Getting Focused Program also operates during the summer and is another part of our initiative to see our children develop special memories while experiencing something outside what has been available to them in the past. Begun in 1993, the Getting Focused Program provides an environment for children to explore their creative side. They learn the art of photography using both digital and film media while developing a creative outlet to express themselves. Group trips take place to local settings including parks, beaches, universities and more, where the children are encouraged to explore their new surroundings through the camera lens. Essay writing is incorporated to give the children additional venues for creative expression.
New Ground organizes our Back-to-School supply drive to see that all children and adults returning to school have all the items needed to be academically successful. Donors adopt a specific child or family, or donate varied school supplies to then be distributed to our students. New Ground also collects and distributes gift cards to stores where parents can purchase new school clothing or uniforms. Supplies begin to be collected in the summer including new backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks, pens and pencils, folders and other such items. New Ground students start the school year off right, going back to school as prepared as their permanently housed peers.
So the children of New Ground do not feel left out of the festivities for Halloween, we accept donations of new and gently used Halloween costumes to distribute to our families. Many parents cannot afford costumes as they are luxury items that fall outside tight budgets. Every child, whether homeless or not, spends days and weeks planning what they will be for the holiday and missing out on the activities at school and in the neighborhood would be unimaginable.
New Ground celebrates Veterans Day each year for our veterans in the program. New Ground staff treat our veterans to a special meal in a local restaurant, so our veterans can take some time to enjoy each other’s company while being honored for their service. Each veteran also receives a card and small gift acknowledging their service to our country.
Also during this month, Thanksgiving baskets of food and/or gift certificates are provided to our families and veterans to ensure a bountiful Thanksgiving Day feast for everyone. Donors adopt a specific family or veteran, providing not just enough for the holiday but snacks and goodies to last through the long weekend.
Our Adopt-a-Family Program for the holiday season begins earlier in the fall to guarantee that every family and veteran receives something special for the December holidays. A profile is created for every family and veteran giving the age, gender and gift card preference for each member of the family. New Ground seeks benefactors to adopt each family/veteran to provide gift cards based on what was specified in the profile. New Ground strives to empower our parents and veterans- so this system allows them to shop for their children ensuring that they are purchasing the items on their family’s wish list. Donors deliver their items to New Ground in early December so adults have time to do their holiday shopping. Many donors also provide food or supermarket gift cards to be used for a special holiday dinner, as well as wrapping paper and holiday decorations. All these personalized special touches make the season memorable for both the children and adults we serve.