UCC’s Orion Family Services Finds Support from 500 ‘Attic Angels’

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UCC’s Orion Family Services Finds Support from 500 ‘Attic Angels’

Some of the many additions to Orion’s Therapeutic Resource Library. Earlier this year, some angels descended from the attic and smiled on UCC-related Orion Family Services in Madison, Wis.

The Attic Angel Association — begun in 1889 by two Wisconsin sisters who brought armloads of goods from their attic to share with children from families who lived in poverty — awarded Orion a partial Community Grant in the amount of $4,000 to help start Orion’s Therapeutic Resource Library.

The monies, granted in March 2018, may not have covered Orion’s entire grant request, but it was enough to jump start the library, which now contains “tools that we use to facilitate therapy for youth and families,” says Stacey Parke, director. “Funds received have been used to establish a full complement of resources needed to provide in-home therapy, mentoring, and independent living skills development to middle and high school youth and their families in [Wisconsin’s] Dane County.”

The Attic Angel Association is a 500-member, independent nonprofit organization that helps meet health and human service needs in Dane County through volunteer and financial support. It is the volunteer and fund-raising arm of Attic Angel Senior Living Community, based in Middleton, Wis. While the association gives back much to the older adult community, it also gives to the wider Dane County.

Each year, the association focuses on a specific need for its Community Grants. In 2018, grants were awarded to groups and organizations in the county that provide mental health services for middle and high school youth. The response was so overwhelming that Attic Angel is repeating the grant focus for 2019, expanding it to include all school-aged children and youth.

Orion applied for the grant in October 2017. The Attic Angels grant committee interviewed each potential awardee and held site visits to learn more about the candidates. Initial grants were made in December. Since receiving the grant, Orion has been able to purchase therapeutic games, books, and craft supplies for the library.

“Funds also have been used to cover the cost of activities and rewards used to enhance our work with at-risk youth and their families,” Parke says.

For example, some youth clients make more progress engaging in talk therapy while doing an activity than by talk therapy alone. In one instance, the therapist purchased a fishing license and took the youth on weekly fishing excursions. Successful therapeutic conversations were able to occur during the activity.

As with many nonprofit youth and family service organizations, Orion staff members operate on a tight budget. Often, they have to use their imaginations to find therapy tools for their clients. One therapist found an old Candyland game at a garage sale and retrofitted it for therapy. Each of the game’s colored cards now equals a different feeling. When a youth client picks a card, s/he has to describe and define the feeling the color represents.

The Community Grant has enabled Orion to purchase some of the more expensive therapy items. One highlight of the new library is an extensive therapeutic tool kit — a sort-of youth version of a Rorschach test, says Parke. Other prized items include “Stop-Think-Listen” therapeutic activities. Before the grant, 20 Orion therapists shared one copy of the activity. Now, the therapists have several to share.

“There are things we’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford,” Parke adds. “Now we have them in our library.”

The new library also is spurring Orion on to new visions for its future. The staff has increased over the past year and, with the additional need of a dedicated area for the new Therapeutic Resource Library, the CHHSM ministry has outgrown its current space. Orion is considering several options for expanding or relocating its main offices to accommodate the growing staff and resource library.

“The grant has been a morale boost for our staff,” Parke says. “We are grateful for this gift from the Attic Angel Association.”