Donors to the Aspire Community Giving Fund are making a difference at ALL Academy and the Permanency Program in Connecticut.

All Academy’s grant is enabling the school to expand their Bee’s Nest snack cart microbusiness into a regular offering by the Transition program. Students in this program have finished high school and are working on the skills they need to take the next step into adulthood. Preparing and selling food through the Bee’s Nest gives them the chance to learn technical, business, and social skills in a practical context. They are just starting for this term, with up to three days a week of service.

Originally the grant was designated for the purchase of a new cart. However, the Stratford school district was able to supply a bigger and better cart than the grant would have enabled, at no cost. Instead the grant is funding the initial inventory of food for the next six months, ensuring the viability of this microbusiness. The grant will also be used to buy special pans that fit into the well of the cart as well as dispensers for coffee.

While the Transition students had been slated to begin applying their cooking skills to the service, the recent pandemic surge has put that on hold. Instead, the students are doing packaged items like granola bars and bagels with pre-packaged cream cheese. The students have already taken a food safety class, and they are participating in an Entrepreneur curriculum that covers budgeting, sales, and market analysis.

According to Principal Lisa Riggi, “Over time, we hope to add iced coffee, yogurt parfaits, salads, breakfast sandwiches, and baked goods, all made by the students.” In the long run she would love to see them become a retail establishment, where the students can fully integrate all their training, skills and experiences.

In the Permanency Program, the Community Giving Fund grant is supporting a successful incentive program that helps foster parents get the training they need to help kids thrive. The program was the brainchild of the Family Training Committee, and the Community Giving Fund grant offering came just at the right time.

Family life is a juggling act of competing priorities for every family, and especially for foster families who have the added challenge of helping children recover from adverse events. Aspire offers 1-2 trainings per month, but foster parents can find it challenging to attend. Virtual trainings, although convenient, are missing the pleasure of in-person social interaction and a good snack. The grant is helping to fund the incentive program, which offers $100 gift card raffles at trainings and support group meetings, and an appreciation event for those who complete their training.

Permanency has already seen an increase in attendance, with the January training being the most well-attended ever. This training included a focus on routines and rhythms to help children stay on track during their day. Team Leader Julie Hutchinson notes, “Kids with trauma have a hard time staying regulated. When their routine is off, the whole day can be shot.” Foster parents are using their new skills and insights to support the children in their care even more effectively.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Community Giving Fund. Your gift is having an impact!


Community Giving Fund Update