Strong Girls, Inc. and ICU Baby, our 2019 Grand Innovator and Trailblazer award winners, fill us in on how their nonprofits continue to innovate for good.
On May 21, Miami innovated for good. Inspire 305 powered by United Way of Miami-Dade, called on the community to vote for its favorite nonprofit from a list of finalists, and they chose Strong Girls, Inc. and ICU Baby – their work and dedication to our community is transforming lives. We recently sat down with Virginia Akar of Strong Girls, Inc. and Elizabeth Simonton of ICU Baby to find out what they have been up to since walking away with a combined $35,000 in grant award money. Here is what they had to say.
Strong Girls, Inc.
What has Strong Girls, Inc. been up to since winning Inspire305’s $25,000 Grand Innovator award?
Strong Girls, Inc. has been busy, busy, busy! We installed an expansive, beautiful outdoor edible garden at Beacon College Prep, complete with picnic bench seating, umbrellas and work stations thanks to Inspire305’s Garden Day Volunteer project. We are in the midst of planning our first annual “Bling it On!” shopping gala at the iconic Seybold Jewelry Building in November. We have also hired a social media assistant and a program manager to help us share all of our exciting events and manage our growth. We recently shared our insights into the education landscape here in Miami with leaders and staff of Leadership for Educational Equity at their Miami Voices Roundtable. We also secured funding from the Kirk Foundation to expand our programming south to an additional two schools serving 60 third and fourth grade girls this fall.
Has Strong Girls, Inc. begun to use any of its Inspire305 grant? If so, is there anything exciting you can share?
[Yes.] In addition to the Garden Day project, the Inspire305 grant enabled us to commit to implementing two new programs serving a combined 60 girls at Santa Clara Elementary School and Eneida Hartner Elementary School this fall. We are currently in the hiring process at both schools and began training our new teachers in September. Both programs are set to begin in October.
What has ICU baby been up to since winning Inspire305’s $10,000 Trailblazer award?
Winning the Trailblazer Award brought terrific attention to ICU baby and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) families that we support! This summer our programs in the NICUs were stronger than ever, as ICU baby volunteers hosted meals and craft events for NICU families, sat with them by their baby’s bedside to offer support, handed out NICU packs and read to babies that were unvisited. ICU baby also spent the summer developing a 5-year strategic plan, finalizing our Volunteer Manual, revamping our website and developing our 2019 Give Miami Day Campaign!
Has ICU baby begun to use any of its Inspire305 grant? If so, is there anything exciting you can share?
We have! Inspire305 monies continue to help fund ICU baby’s Transportation Assistance Program. This summer over 30 low-income families were able to be at their baby’s bedside more frequently because ICU baby provided them the financial assistance to do so.
One story (of so many) we have to share is that of mommy Elizabeth and her twin girls who were born at 28 weeks. Elizabeth could not afford to go to the hospital regularly because of the cost of gas to get from home to the hospital. ICU baby provided her with stipends to supplement gasoline costs. On the day that she received the stipends, Elizabeth came to the hospital to see her twins and learned she would be able to hold her babies for the first time. She thought she would have had to wait until the weekend to be with her twins, but thanks to funds from ICU baby’s Inspire305 award, she was able to hold them four days sooner … crucial to their successful development and Elizabeth’s well-being as well.