“There is no simple explanation to address what we do in the community, but the simple statement that we are ‘helping people help others’ says it all,” said Spalding Collaborative Executive Director Joseph Walker, who spoke to the Rotary Club of Griffin Thursday.
Spalding Collaborative, which has been in existence since 1993, does for the local social services community what the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce does for the local business community, Walker said.
While Spalding Collaborative has no staff and provides no direct services, all the work is done by two contracted positions or by volunteers.
“The Collaborative is nothing and would accomplish absolutely nothing without the partnerships that have evolved over the years and the volunteers from this community that have worked tirelessly to provide a better life for its citizens,” Walker said. “Spalding’s Collaborative is well respected and considered a model for other Collaboratives in the state of Georgia.”
Speaking about the projects and initiatives the organization has taken on over time, Walker pointed out a $1 million grant it received through the Strengthening Community Fund as one of only 34 in the nation.
With the money, Walker said, the Collaborative was able to work with 60 organizations, thus continuing its long history of working with non-profit organizations to improve the health and well-being of children and help families become self-sufficient.
Other projects include the Back to School Bash — an annual event at City Park in which Spalding Collaborative, along with its partner, provides about 1,000 book bags packed with school supplies for needy children —and a mentoring program conceived last fall with the intention to serve 40 children from four local schools by assigning mentors to each of them.
Most recently, Spalding Collaborative started an initiative that Walker described as “one that is really near to my heart” — the Backpack Food for Kids program. The collaborative effort, which began last October, distributes food to 134 children at four local elementary schools for the weekend.
“As we began to look at this issue, we began to become aware that a number of these students may not eat from the time they leave school on Friday until they return (to school) on Monday,” he said.
The cost to provide food for each child is $200 for an entire year, Walker said, and funds for the program have come from small grants, churches, fundraisers and individuals.
“Tackling hunger among youth is critical. Food insecurity issues create emotional, discipline problems and academic problems,” he said. “It is so important that we bring up a generation able to handle the challenges they face.”