Amarillo Area Foundation is proud to share the recipients for the second cycle of the 2023 Discretionary Grants. This grant cycle included proposals in all four of our focus areas — Education, Health, Economic Opportunity, and Unique and Urgent. These organizations are continuing the important work that is our mission, to improve quality of life for Texas Panhandle residents. There was over $850,000 granted in this cycle. Thank you to these organizations!
PRPC works in all three Amarillo Area Foundations focus areas through Workforce Solutions Panhandle. In workforce alignment and education, they provide summer earn-and-learn opportunities through vocational rehab and services to Opportunity Youth. They do career counseling and connect youth and young adults to educational opportunities. Providing tuition assistance and wrap-around services to those who qualify increases persistence and graduation rates. They also offer subsidized childcare to low–income individuals in school or working, as well as help childcare providers obtain Texas Rising Star certification. They also connect families with TANF and EBT services and provide food for seniors. The building that is currently housing PRPC is ideally suited for their needs. It allows for different agencies to be housed under one roof, thus creating a warm handoff for individuals who may qualify for various services, which increases the likelihood that they will take advantage of the opportunities available.
When children come to Amarillo Children‘s Home (ACH), they arrive traumatized. Their childhood has been robbed and the need for care looks vastly different from other kids. What is often overlooked with foster children is their significant mental health needs and the staff requirements ACH must have in place to meet them. Before a child is placed at ACH, he or she undergoes a psychological evaluation; 100% of ACH‘s children come into care with a psychological diagnosis, with nearly every child requiring psychotherapeutic medication. Knowing the child‘s mental health condition before placement ensures that ACH has the staff and tools necessary for the child to thrive while in care. Every aspect of ACH‘s programming intentionally focuses on restoring the child‘s identity and mental health so they can realize their immense value and be a blessing to others.
To meet the wide range of healthcare needs within our community and the surrounding area, Hemphill County Hospital District, the Rural Health Clinics (RHC) of Canadian Family Physicians, and Harvester Family Medical Clinic have committed to meeting the critical need for specialized services within their clinics to include telehealth Psychiatry. Improving access and lowering the time a patient waits to be seen and treated will be a huge victory. Individuals who need to be assessed and treated by a psychiatrist face the challenge of finding a nearby and available provider. The need for specialized services grows as the population age and their health declines. Unfortunately, multiple factors contribute to the overall problem. Most specialists live and work in metropolitan areas where patient populations and needs are more significant, forcing patients living in rural areas to travel longer distances, spend more money on food, lodging, and fuel, and sometimes have to find reliable transportation to get there. Some people have the means and ability to do that, while others do not. Therefore, offering an alternative approach is a must.
Hereford Senior Citizens provides a Home Delivered Meal Program for home-bound seniors and a congregate lunch program. The center also offers enrichment activities and an extensive physical fitness program. Improving safe accessibility to HSCA removes the barrier for regular attending senior citizens who depend on HSCA to reduce food insecurity.
Counseling Plus is a project focused on providing accessible, local, and quality mental health services to all clients regardless of funding or insurance. Counseling Plus allows professional providers and school personnel to refer without worrying about how the family will afford the assistance needed. Activities focused on aid in cooperation with the schools foster early detection and collaborative care, reducing mental health stigma. This model of care also ensures a warm handoff from referral to treatment, increasing the access and timeliness of mental health treatment.
St. Helens Outreach aims to target food insecurity in Randall and Swisher counties by constructing a local food pantry. Food insecurity is not just a statistic; it is a harsh reality many in our communities face. The lack of consistent access to adequate, affordable, and healthy food affects individuals’ physical and mental well-being, affecting their overall quality of life. The new food pantry will offer a safe and welcoming space where individuals and families can find food, support, compassion, and a sense of belonging.
Weekends can be scary and unpredictable for a student experiencing food insecurity. While meals are provided at school during the week, many students have limited access to meals during the weekend. Snack Pak 4 Kids (SP4K) began in 2010 with ten hungry students at Will Rogers Elementary School in Amarillo. SP4K works with schools as a resource for our educators so students are ready to learn on Monday by providing bags of brand–name food for our kids with the dignity and respect they need and deserve.
The federal government has wholly or partially designated 98% of the 254 counties in Texas as “mental health professional shortage areas.“ WTAMU has provided psychiatric services alongside their student clinic on campus for over a year. These services have been limited to WTAMU students and faculty. With this funding, WTAMU will expand these services to include on-campus and telehealth services available to the whole Panhandle. In addition to increasing access to mental health services, WTAMU is removing a policy requiring Certified Nurse Practitioners going through their Psych certification program to be dually certified (i.e., they needed to already have a certification as a nurse practitioner to pursue additional Psych certification). This change will allow any student with a bachelor‘s in nursing to pursue a certification as a Psych Nurse Practitioner, therefore working to increase the mental healthcare workforce.
Young Life uses a time-tested, multi-tiered program approach to mentor youth. This approach involves volunteer mentors investing in the lives of adolescents. Volunteers are trained to spend time with kids in their settings by serving as tutors, volunteering at their schools, attending their events, or helping with everyday activities. Young Life aims to create and foster an environment that is safe and allows them to build relationships. This contact work can provide a powerful early detection system to connect students with the help they need to address depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations.
Established in 1995, the Wellington Opportunity Center has provided a free after-school program for grades K-5. The center offers a safe place for children after school, homework help, a light meal, and programs that teach good decision–making. Wellington Opportunity Center also provides summer programs. Summer programs offer students educational and recreational opportunities such as zoo trips, theater visits, swimming, zip lining, and science labs.
For almost 50 years, the Don Harrington Discovery Center has been the leading resource in the Panhandle for informal education with a heavy focus on science. DHDC serves an average of 150,000 visitors annually, a true treasure to the Texas Panhandle.