GIVING 1 FAMILY AT A TIME
An overview of our philosophy
G1FT – Giving 1 Family at a Time is a nonprofit organization which assists at risk, poverty level families within Grand Traverse County achieve sustainable independence through one on one mentoring and ongoing emotional support, by providing them with items and/or services tailored to their individual needs which act as stepping stones to assist them with return to work, continuing education, and emergency, safety or health concerns.
My name is Taylor Weckstein and I am the founder of the non-profit organization, G.1F.T. - Giving 1 Family at a Time, or G.1F.T.
I am fifteen years old and started this charity four years ago in the sixth grade. Although any type of charitable work is amazing, most non-profit organizations attempting to reduce poverty can be divided into two very distinct groups, and neither one of them are necessarily effective. On one hand, there are the organizations that give tangible items to the needy, such as canned goods or clothing. Unfortunately, with this group, their assistance is often offered in mass quantities and is non-specific. They do not have the resources or the time to make a personal difference with every single family they encounter and these non-profits give only a little support to many families. Because of this, it is difficult to make a lifelong impact on almost anybody. On the other hand, there are the organizations that provide mentoring, but do not provide people in need with anything but their words; offering inspiration, resources and suggestions. Sometimes support is all it takes to give someone the boost they need to get out of poverty. However, these situations are rare and more often than not temporary financial assistance in addition to individual emotional support is imperative for someone to get out of a difficult situation. G.1F.T.’s philosophy is that in order to actually change a person’s life who is living in poverty, it is essential to really get to know the individual family members who you are assisting and to truly understand their specific needs. G.1F.T. provides a family precise items and services which act as stepping stones to lead them out of poverty towards financial independence.. Along with this we provide consistent mentoring and a guiding hand for approximately one year.
Prior to G.1F.T. accepting a family, there is a rigorous application process. This is to screen families to make sure they are highly motivated and determined to help themselves. Applications are filled out by interested families and are available on this website on the Download Application Form tab on the left hand side of this page, and they are also distributed by mail to churches, schools, and non-profit agencies within our community. Once we receive all the applications, we determine who will qualify for an interview. We make sure our interviews are thorough, and we find information out such as details about the family’s current financial hardship, what they are doing to help themselves get out of this situation and what they see as immediate and future needs. When a family is chosen a contract is signed. The family is agreeing ,through this contract, to not partake in smoking, alcohol or illegal activities of any kind and to continue working, looking actively for employment or pursuing continuing education towards future employment possibilities. (If at any time the G.1F.T mentor believes they have broken this contract they will be reviewed and may be terminated for assistance - they must continually demonstrate motivation to help themselves.). A G.1F.T. mentor will work with the family for approximately one year to help this deserving family get their feet back on the ground. It begins with an initial meeting where the family is asked to create a list of "needs". Their mentor then help the family prioritize what items on the list will help them reach both short term goals and ultimately the long term goal of independence. right from the beginning we establish and maintain a safe, consistent and supportive environment. The family immediately realizes that G.1F.T. is with them for the long haul. We stay in regular contact with the family on at least a weekly basis, and we constantly reassess needs in order to continue to supply them items such as healthy food, clothing, home and car repairs, furniture, beds, computers, and internet. In addition our mentors are training to offer assistance with budgeting, organizational and overall household guidance, meal planning, chore charts, and constant encouragement. G.1F.T. works with businesses within the Grand Traverse region who provide regular donations for our families. Through physical donations and in-kind services, G.1F.T has been provided with over $30,000.00 worth of goods and services. We have also raised over $25,000 through fundraising activities like pop can drives, garage sales and e-mail campaigns. Most recently, our biggest fundraising event has been the Mother's Day 5K fun run where all proceeds benif G.1F.T. families These generous donations, fundraised money and grants (Echo Grant, Best Buy Grant, Kohl’s Care Scholarship), have allowed me to supply my families with the necessary items that are crucial for our families to truly move forward.
This philosophy and G.!.F.T. Model has worked better than I could have possibly imagined and has truly changed family’s lives in the Grand Traverse Region of Northern Michigan.
How did G1FT get started?
G1FT got started by a small idea of mine which snowballed into a much bigger project, when I was 11 years old in the 6th grade at East Middle School. I had extra money in my bank account and one day I asked my mom if there was a way I could use half of my money to help out a family who might be living in poverty and need it more then I do.She suggested that we research charities in our community. There are many and I could have donated my money to any number of existing organizations, but I didn't want it to go towards 1000 cans for 1000 people. I really wanted to help one particular family, continue to offer them help and really try to make a difference in their life. I wanted to get to know them and if possible help this family for a long period of time. I hoped by using my money and raising more, I could have a permanent impact on their lives. No organization existed specifically for this purpose, so I decided to start my own charity. Through the kindness of Congregation Beth El my charity has a non-profit status and all donations are tax deductible.
Initially I needed to raise $1500, so that I would be ready to work with my first family. I began fundraising and within 6 months I was ready to go. It was challenging at first, to figure out a way to inform the community about G1FT and to find families in need. A friend of my mother’s, directed us to meet with Jim Rowlett, President of the P.R.I., Poverty Reduction Initiative in Traverse City for more ideas. He had many suggestions and I finally decided to send out a letter about my G1FT charity and what I was offering to all of the established non- profit organizations, churches, temples and schools in our area icnluding Father Fred, Goodwill Inn, Women Resource Center, LOVE, Inc etc. in order to see if they had any families who would fit my criteria.This worked and soon I was receiving calls and applications for assistance!
What are the long term goals of G1FT?
Presently, because this philosophy has worked so well, I am hoping to expand G.1F.T. and make it sustainable long after I go off to college. First I am making it its own 501(c) (3). Second I am presently working with the Traverse City Public school System to create a G.1F.T classroom with underprivileged/at risk students who would use the G.1F.T. model to helping them work towards achieving a community service goal while providing assistance to a family living in poverty within our region. I am in the process of creating the syllabus and plan with the principal and teacher so this G.1F.T. Community Youth Initiative Classroom can begin during the 2014/2015 school year as a pilot within Traverse City Central High School. If successful, the plan would be for it to be a continual running course at Central High School and other high schools within our region. It is my goal to design a program with all the steps in place for a classroom to work with one family at a time using the G.1F.T. Model. The first few days within this classroom would be devoted for students to learn about poverty in this community along with the philosophy and goals behind G.1F.T. - Giving 1 Family at a Time. Some initial assignments would be to write out a mass email to friends and family about the program in order to fundraise, creating a priority list of what the class was going to do for their family based on their specific needs. In order for this to be successful, there will need a step by step process following the G.1F.T. Model, a general syllabus, and a dynamic teacher willing to take extra time out of their personal lives to help this program get up and running. I feel confident now that I have a dedicated teacher and the approval of our administration, that the G.1F.T Youth Initiative Classroom will become a reality by my Junior year of high school.
Another long term goal is to keep tabs on G.1F.T. and determine our success over time through long term assessments and better record keeping of the families we work with.
I want to be certain that G.1F.T. remains self-sustaining after I leave for college one day. I have a few years to help make this happen and I hope I can reach out and teach others in the community about this model for affecting poverty within our area, and about G.1F.T's unique one on one, intensive philosophy.
How have you raised $25,000?
I initially sent out mass e-mails to friends, families, even acquaintances about my non-profit charity and got a huge response. I send updates about G1FT and how my current family at the time is doing to my mass e-mail list and because of this I continue to get ongoing support. I also did a school fundraiser where all 3 teams at school competed to see who could raise the most money for G1FT. The winning team got a cake party at the end of the year. Then I did a pop bottle drive in my neighborhood and a big garage sale over the summer. There was a very successful bake sale at my school as well. I have also spoken at my Temple and to a number of different community organizations and this has brought in many regular and ongoing donations. I held a huge fundraising campaign for my recent family at my temple during our High Holiday services and had members pick a leaf from a tree, each with an item needed by my family. This was very successful and also brought in money to the general charity for the future. Along with this I applied for the ECHO GRANT and won $1000. It is such a nice thing ECHO GRANT does and I am so appreciative that G1FT received this funding from them. I also am receiving a $1000 Community Grant from Best Buy and have received the Kohl's Care Scholarship award. I just had my biggest fundraiser yet, The Mother's Day 5K held May on 12th 2013, which raised close to $10,.000. (I have also raised over $30,000 in physical items, goods and services and in-kind donations.)
How does a family take advantage of G1FT and what is the process to get them started?
Approximately once per year G1FT sends out letters to all nonprofits, churches and schools in the Grand Traverse County announcing that G1FT is taking applications. We ask that they refer to this website; www.g1ftfund.com for a printable Application Form if they know of anyone that they think might be interested in applying to become a G1FT recipient. Even though we send out these letters once per year we do accept and review applications year round and anyone is free to access these forms at any time. If an organization or family contacts us, we would be happy to send them a hard copy of the application. This form can be found on the "About Us Page" or by clicking on the link on the left side bar of the "Home Page" on this web site.
If you know of a deserving family please print this Application Form and have the them fill it out and return it to us if they are interested. The address where they should send it is on the bottom of the form. The application will give us detailed information which we will need to know before making our selection.
Once received, all applications are reviewed thoroughly and screened. If appropriate, a family will be chosen for an informal interview where we will get to know them a little better, collect more information and screen them further determining if they are motivated to work together towards changing their current situation with mentoring and support through G1FT.
After our rigorous screening process a family is finally selected, and we begin working with and getting to know them on a personal level to create a list of their specific "needs" and "wants" and then prioritizing how G1FT can help. This along with constant support and mentoring will continue for up to a year as long as the family continues to stay motivated to change their current situation and are either working, going to school to pursue some sort of a career or are actively looking for work. G1FT will continue to assist this family and provide items which act like stepping stones as well as needed support and mentoring for approximately a year.
In order to learn more about this organization or to recommend a family in need please contact Taylor Weckstein at firstname.lastname@example.org