The humble mission of a nonprofit organization stands on its strongest legs and works its best strategy for positive change when the pillars of its community truly believe it in its altruistic power.
After reviewing their options for 2021 grant recipients, International Paper (IP) found Communities in Schools (CIS) to be a candidate, not just worthy, but entirely welcome to their full support and conviction in the form of a $2,500 grant.
CIS Executive Director, Gregory Wooten, said that the funds come at a perfect time for the organization to rise from the limitations of the pandemic and begin a new year of serving the children and families in Rome and Floyd County.
“We’re just looking forward to getting back out there in a 100 percent kind of way,” Wooten said. “Last year we were a bit muted in our programs and services, so we’re just excited about the coming year.”
CIS works diligently to remove nonacademic barriers for students in order to ensure their academic success. They strive to create one-on-one relationships that encourage and support the student along the way. CIS’ flagship program is their mentoring program where students are matched with a trained volunteer mentor who offers support and encouragement to the student as they work toward their academic goals.
“These funds are going to benefit us in many ways,” Wooten explained. “It’s going to help with our parental engagement initiatives, it’s going to help us with teacher resources and student supplies, our mentor volunteer program, and will also help with our Cardboard Challenge. So, we’re going to spread this out over various initiatives.”
Jenna Guzman, Communications Manager for IP Rome, explained that they have an entire grant review team as part of their community relations group.
“International Paper has different grant categories or community categories,” she explained, “hunger, health and wellness, literacy/education, and critical community needs. What’s wonderful is that Communities in Schools hits so many of those, it’s quite an easy decision,” she smiled.
Guzman and IP Human Resources representative, Kelli Wilson, presented Wooten with the $2,500 check Wednesday, at the office of CIS Board Chair, Alma Roman (agency owner of Farmers Insurance).
Guzman spoke to the connections that IP has with CIS’ work, “A lot of our team members have family members who have been in schools where these CIS resources have been and have seen the benefit.”
“We’re also happy to connect with the Cardboard Challenge,” Guzman added. “We make liner board and container board, so it’s a product connection to the schools and renewable resources which is a huge deal for us. We love that connection.”
Wooten explained that the Cardboard Challenge implements the concepts of the STEAM (science, technology, education, art, and math) program into a fun, competitive event. Typically done in the spring, the Challenge stimulates creativity and innovation, with competition categories such as Art, Arcade Games, and Designer’s Choice. The students (K-12) are required to use materials that are 100 percent recyclable.
“We really appreciate organizations like IP, investing in us and trusting us with these funds, to do right by the funds,” Wooten said.
This particular grant funding is provided by the International Paper Foundation, funds from IP profit. The grants are reviewed each year, and each year, CIS remains a paramount community partner that IP consistently supports. Guzman explained that each facility has a substantial budget that allows them to support between 16 and 20 organizations every year.
“We are thrilled to have International Paper as one of our very loyal supporters,” Roman affirmed. “They’ve always shown great support in CIS and what CIS stands for. We’re excited to see how Greg will get creative in utilizing these funds to help our community’s children, and also to work in collaboration with other nonprofits to better our community as a whole.”
“We’re really grateful for everything that Communities in Schools does,” Guzman addressed Wooten, and added, “Being able to support you guys with what you are doing on the front lines, with people who need it the most is a true blessing.”