The Valley Pearls Service Foundation (VPSF) History
The Valley Pearls Service Foundation (VPSF) is a 501 (c) (3) organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The VPSF was formed in 2010 by 85 members of Upsilon Eta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., an organization with a rich and distinguished history of service that spans nearly a century.
Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first Greek letter organization of its kind. The organization pioneered mobile health clinics in America, has been a leader in the fight against illiteracy, and has the distinction of being one of only a handful of women’s organizations to operate a federally funded Job Corps.
Creating the VPSF was the method by which Upsilon Eta Omega sought to ensure that there will always be support for health and education, its oldest programs of service. Today, the Foundation, a strong and viable organization, is a powerful tool for good, pooling the resources of its 191 members who share this vision of providing a perpetual source of support for health and education. Over the years the VPSF, through its members and community support, serves as resources for several Greater Birmingham School Systems (City of Birmingham, City of Fairfield, and City of Bessemer); local community centers; community organizations (AIDS, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Sickle Cell Disease Association, Boys and Girls Club, 4 – H Club, Heifer International, World Hunger Organization, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, March of Dimes.
The VPSF became acutely aware and concern about the health issues associated with Childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height.[i]Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect the health of your child now and in the future.
The VPSF makes this grant application to aid in the Foundation’s delivery of its Healthy Connection Program, an interactive program delivering knowledge, information, physical activities, energetic, and demonstrations addressing childhood obesity to 3rdand 4thgrade students living in Fairfield in the Fairfield City School System. The Healthy Connection Program long term effects will provide student the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices and physical activity that will decrease the probability of becoming obese.
The VPSF has implemented the following programs and services within the Greater Birmingham area:
- Through meetings with the School Guidance Counselors financial management was identified as essential if youth were to succeed in the 21st Century. The VPSF found that very little if any financial management programming was conducted in area schools. One way to begin assisting children with financial literacy is to educate students at a younger age before they become young adults with jobs. The VPSF goal was to teach financial management skills to every 4th-5thgrade youth in the City of Fairfield, Alabama School System. The results were: 90 Fairfield City School students participated in the VPSF “Feed The Pig” program operated at C. J. Donald Elementary School. Post-program surveys were conducted with 100% of the students, and the following impacts were found:
- 90% learned how to write a check correctly.
- 85% learned the deductions from your paycheck.
- 80% learned how much money it takes to live.
- 85% learned that using credit costs more in the long run.
- 80% noted that this program helped them make the connection between occupation and lifestyle.
- The VPSF has an ongoing partnership with the Fairfield School System with emphasis on improving the academic performance and development of students by providing and serving as classroom assistance, mentors, program professionals, and resources. Through its partnership with Robinson Elementary School in Fairfield, Alabama the VPSF implemented a Reading and Writing Program for 30 students in the third and fourth grades. The program focus was to encourage students to cultivate in students a love for reading and improve students writing skills. The program included weekly volunteer readers and to listen to the students read, field trips to libraries and book stores, students inventing make-believe characters, assist students with developing their make-believe characters, writing about their characters and eventually writing a full short story. The short stories were collected and published. The results of the program were as increase in students overall academic performance (with emphasis in reading and writing) evidenced through students’ report card grades.
- The VPSF implemented an Emerging Young Leaders (EYL) Program with Middle School girls (between the ages of 11 – 14). Program participants were selected upon recommendation of school counselors from the City of Birmingham, City of Fairfield and City of Bessemer Schools: teacher recommendations, parents’ letter of commitment, and student/parent application. The Emerging Young Leaders program was administered through four curriculums:
- Character Building (provided participants with the six pillars to building one’s character, which include Respect, Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship; the Program incorporated the use of modern technology and media to offer workshops on Social Media / Networking, Facets of Character Building, Media Programs (includes television production and journalism), and Myers-Briggs: Character and Personality Self-Test).
- Educational Enrichment (giving practice drills to improve English, Math, Science, and Social Study Skills, while introducing non-traditional careers for women)
- Leadership Development (focus on developing public speaking, social, and decision-making skills; and to provide a foundation for team building, conflict resolution, and networking)
- Civic Engagement (allowed the program participants to see the good that exist within their local community and how they could become a part, included participation in Food Bank, Earth Day, Nursing Homes, World Hunger, and Juvenile Diabetes)
- The VPSF in partnership the city of Fairfield Park and Recreation Department, the VPSF provides programs focusing on the physical health of greater Birmingham communities, these programs include: provide education and awareness for the community on the physical health issues facing children ages 0-17 years (juvenile diabetes, sickle cell disease, asthma and obesity); Increase awareness of the lack of services available to adequately identify and care for children with health related issues; partnership with community; Develop programs focusing on preventative physical health education to improve the lives of children age 0-17; and Encourage ongoing community dialogue regarding physical health needs of children and their families to foster long term solutions.
- The VPSF is the only service organization that provides services in health education, mentoring and social justice in the City of Fairfield, Alabama.
The VPSF has extensive talents within its organization (physicians, nurses, physical therapists, educators, engineers, social workers, recreational leaders, accountants, educators, teachers, attorneys, and other professionals), skills, passion, and significant relationships with the above reference school systems to successfully implement the Healthy Connection Program.