Quentoria Jones clearly remembers that day 3 years ago when she heard a knock at her door. She was actually awoken from a nap. She was nearing the end of her pregnancy, awaiting the birth of her son Zackariah; and she was exhausted. As Quentoria rallied and opened the door she was surprised to see Representative Chandra Dillard and a few others from her Nicholtown neighborhood.
That day Representative Dillard was inviting neighbors to attend an event up the street. Quentoria reflects, “Chandra told me that they had plenty of food for everyone and I could bring Trinity my three-year-old. I might even win a door prize. She told me that she would wait while I got ready to walk with them as they invited more of my neighbors.”
“I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go, but I did. I know now that making that decision has made all the difference in my life and the lives of my four children,” explained Quentoria. The event she attended that day was organized by the newly founded Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative. It was an event to bring the neighborhood together. Aside from offering a variety of family fun activities, everyone who attended received a calendar of upcoming events.
Quentoria was hooked from the start. She had fun connecting with others from Nicholtown. Being a mom with young children can be lonely and Quentoria met others who were facing her same challenges. She even won the $50 gift card that day. “I had never won anything before,” she shared.
Improving the Greenville community one child at a time is the focus of Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative. The organization specifically serves Nicholtown, a special emphasis neighborhood within the City of Greenville. More than one-third of all households are living below the poverty line. Nearly 27% of adults have no high school diploma and less than 14% of adults hold a bachelor’s degree or above.
Over the organization’s short three-year history, it has helped the Nicholtown community open a Head Start program at the Phillis Wheatly Community Center, built a playground in partnership with local funders, and started two ongoing programs for neighborhood parents and children: the Parent Café and WOKE (Working On Knowledge and Excellence), a free after-school program at Sterling School.
One of the benchmarks of this organization’s success is understanding the value of collaborating with other groups in the community. Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative is not in the business of creating new programs but rather finding partners who can help support the residents of Nicholtown. The organization currently has more than 20 partner agencies including the United Way of Greenville County, Greenville County First Steps, Greenville County Schools, the Institute for Child Success and Safe Harbor.
In January 2018, Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative kicked off its Parent Café. This program meets twice a month at Sterling School. All attendees enjoy a meal together and then parents and children are separated into different groups to participate in activities. Children enjoy arts and crafts, reading together and playing with their friends,
Parents have the opportunity to hear speakers share information about their mental, emotional and social needs. In addition, they are provided with Palmetto Basics training to offer them basic education and literacy practices to use in their homes. To further enhance the Parent Café, they have recently added “Make A Difference,” a financial literacy program.
The Parent Café also organizes field trips and holiday celebrations for families in the program. Recent trips included visits to Roper Mountain Science Center and Annie’s House, a project of Sustaining Way. The children have made Valentine’s cards, decorated pumpkins and had Easter egg hunts. And they kicked off the school year with a Back to School event at the Cleveland Street YMCA.
Quentoria was one of the first moms to get involved with the Patent Café and she continues to be a regular. She truly sees the value of the Palmetto Basics training. “I am all about education and will do anything I can to help my children’s education,” she said. Not only does this training offer Quentoria activities to encourage reading at home, but she gets free books to take home. They have a bookcase full of children’s books.
Participating in the Parent Café has brought the joy of reading to the Jones family. Quentoria and her children are proud Greenville County Library cardholders. This past summer they all participated in the summer reading program. And they even had a family contest to see who would finish their 40 books first. Trinity, now six years old, was the winner. They all received certificates.
However, reading doesn’t just happen in the summer it continues throughout the year. The family’s evening ritual includes Quentoria and her four children hopping up on her bed to read together. Each night one of the older children, Kyree, Trinity or Zackariah, gets to select a favorite book from the bookcase. 10-month old Faith will soon have her chance. The family then spends 15 minutes enjoying a story together before going to bed. Could you imagine a better way to end the day?
Nicholtown parents have high aspirations for their children. Thanks to the support of Nicholtown Child and Family Collaborative these parents are offered access to a variety of life changing opportunities. Quentoria has put into practice what she learned at the Parent Café and she now has a family of readers. One simple knock at the door made all the difference in their lives.