Zach Garza built his non-profit organization, Forerunner Mentoring, on a simple premise.
“If you tap into a group of fatherless young men, minority males with a capacity to lead, and you lift them up and direct them in the right way, the other kids will tend to follow.”
His philosophy and program has had great success. With the help of mentors, his boys now excel in sports and in the classroom, and the former Lake Highlands Junior High teacher is able to direct Forerunner Mentoring full time. Just one thing is missing.
“I thought this was going to be something I did on the side with all of my kids who I taught and coached, but then the Lord just made this a little bigger and a little bigger,” says Garza. “But I have no training or background in running a non-profit.”
Lake Highlands Women’s League plans to help change that.
The League will use funds from their annual Holiday in the Highlands home tour to send Garza back to class.
“This money will send me to the Center for Non Profit Management, and I will take courses in how to handle a board, how to handle finances, how to do the IRS stuff in order to run a sustainable non-profit for many years to come,” a grateful Garza told members who arrived to present his check. “Plus, you guys are also going to provide us with a computer, because I’ve been doing everything on my old, slow, personal computer.”
Reps from Feed Lake Highlands were equally as giddy.
“This money will send 48 kids and 9 adults to Kids Across America summer camp in Golden, Missouri,” said Jill Goad, Assistant Director of Community Ministries at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church. “This will be an experience for urban kids who would not ordinarily get the chance to spend the night at camp in an outdoor setting. It’s a Jesus-centered sports camp, with 32 sports – some individual and some played with cabin mates.”
“Sending these kids to summer camp was the best thing we ever did,” agreed Feed LH board member Debbie Kirkpatrick. “Speaking to their foster parents and relatives and all, these kids don’t get an opportunity to do anything like this, ever. This is very dear to my heart.”
LHWL funds will be used for Pamper Lake Highlands’ ESL program. The program which began by simply providing diapers to needy young mothers now provides a host of other services, including parenting classes, recovering services and other outreach.
“This money will be used for curriculum in the fall,” said Pamper LH founder Caren Bright, leading LHWL members on a tour of the nursery while women practiced their English in the church sanctuary.
“Caren has big plans,” agreed board member Jennifer Normile.
Ah, the power of understatement.
Farmer Kim Aman invites students to contribute to the composting pile at Moss Haven Farm, so they dump the leftovers from their school lunches – apple cores, vegetable peels, boiled egg shells and the like. It’s had an unlikely, but very welcome, effect on their eating habits, she says.
“Junk food is a no-no on the compost pile, so they don’t bring it,” Aman told us. “No Cheetos, no Ding-Dongs.”
“The more you educate kids, the more they’ll be the game-changers. That’s what happened with cigarettes. When cigarette smoking declined in the United States, they went through the kids. When they wanted recycling to increase, they went through the kids. These days, the kids who have everything and the kids who have nothing are both eating terribly. I’m just the Pied Piper.”
There are plenty of lessons to be learned at the farm, said Aman: the geometry of organizing planting, the math of calculating seed and water needs, the marketing of taking fresh herbs to sell, the philanthropy of giving fresh produce to Network of Community Ministries. LHWL will staff a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) position at the farm.
LHWL will contribute more than $75,000 to LH area schools and agencies, including: Audelia Road Library, Gateway of Grace, Forest Green Library, Forerunner Mentoring, Healing Hands Ministries, Kids U, LH Junior Women’s League, LH North Recreation Center, LH YMCA, Moss Haven Farm, New Room Community Center/Feed Lake Highlands, Pamper Lake Highlands, Richardson Adult Literacy Center, The Warren Center, Aiken Elementary, Forest Lane Academy, Hamilton Park Pacesetter Academy, Lake Highlands Elementary, Merriman Park Elementary, Moss Haven Elementary, Northlake Elementary, Skyview Elementary, Stults Road Elementary, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Wallace Elementary, White Rock Elementary, Forest Meadow Junior High, Lake Highlands Junior High and Lake Highlands High School.
LHWL will also give $94,000 in college scholarships to LHHS seniors. Congratulations all, and thank you LHWL!