Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fresh Air Fund Time Again

(Photo: Susan Woog Wagner)

It's that time again -- Memorial Day Weekend, and the beginning of the summer season...although the chilly, windy weather we're experiencing here in northern California where I live is still a far cry from "summer"!

Each year I try to give my support on the blog to the Fresh Air Fund. It is an eminently worthwhile cause, and provides great delight and joy to many deserving children who, otherwise, probably would have little or no chance to experience the beauty of nature and the companionship of others like them. I commend the Fresh Air Fund to any of our readers, and am providing some FAQs from the Fresh Air website.

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What is The Fresh Air Fund Friendly Town program?

Summertime is Fresh Air time for thousands of New York City children growing up in disadvantaged communities. The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency providing free summer experiences to inner-city youngsters in need. Through The Fund’s Friendly Town program, close to 5,000 children visit volunteer host families each summer in rural and suburban communities. Fresh Air children stay for two weeks or more in over 300 Friendly Towns across 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
Since 1877, more than 1.7 million inner-city children, living in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods, have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences. The Fresh Air Fund is primarily supported by the generosity of thousands of contributors. 

Who are the Fresh Air children?

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Fresh Air children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Over 65% of all children are invited back to visit host families, year after year. Many re-invited children enjoy longer summertime visits. Re-invited youngsters may continue with The Fund through age 18.
Children are selected to participate in The Fresh Air Fund Friendly Town program based on financial need. Children are from low-income communities, and often come from families without the money to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.   

How are the Fresh Air children selected?

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences outside of the city. Each agency is responsible for registering the children for the program. 

Who are the Friendly Town hosts?

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in small towns, in the suburbs or on farms. Just like our Fresh Air children, host families represent an infinite variety of people. The Fresh Air Fund does not discriminate among our hosts on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. They share a desire to help children in need and broaden their own horizons. Host families say they receive more from the experience than they give. There are no financial requirements for hosting a Fresh Air child. Hosts may request the age-group and gender of their Fresh Air visitor. 

How do local Friendly Towns work?

In every Friendly Town, there is a volunteer committee and Chairperson responsible for the program. The committee publicizes the program, screens applications, checks references, interviews families in their home and approves new hosts. The committee members also make follow-up visits to all participating hosts families every three years. The Friendly Town committee assists hosts while Fresh Air children are visiting and often plans group activities during the trips.
Friendly Town Chairpeople are supervised by regional volunteer Fresh Air Fund Representatives who report to New York City staff. These regional coordinators recruit and train Chairpeople, offer guidance and direction to their local committees, and establish new committees. Fund Representatives help plan transportation, conduct area meetings, help with publicity and work directly with Fresh Air Fund staff in New York City to prepare for each summer. The Fresh Air Fund provides support to Fund Representatives, Chairpeople and host families 24 hours a day, when Fresh Air children are visiting their towns. 

How can communities participate?

Friendly Town communities offer assistance and support to Fresh Air children in many important ways. Local civic organizations often sponsor Friendly Town committees. Their members may serve on the committees or the organization may underwrite local expenses such as postage, mileage and phone bills.
Some civic groups plan summertime picnics for host families and their Fresh Air children. Community sponsorship broadens participation and gives the Friendly Town support on the local level.
Caring individuals and companies offer a great deal of assistance to Friendly Towns. In some communities, local physicians give free medical attention to Fresh Air visitors. Many restaurants, bowling alleys and other family-oriented facilities provide free, enjoyable entertainment and recreational activities. Media coverage and free public service advertisements in newspapers, on television, radio and the Internet help to attract thousands of potential volunteer hosts. Community support is invaluable to a successful Friendly Town program. 

What does The Fresh Air Fund provide?

At The Fresh Air Fund’s main office in New York City, a professional staff oversees the activities of Friendly Town volunteers and assists them in their organizational and recruitment efforts. The Fund works closely with volunteers on policies, procedures, committee development, transportation plans and publicity activities. The Fund also works closely with more than 90 New York City social service and community organizations to register Fresh Air children.
The Fresh Air Fund provides transportation for children to and from Friendly Towns and arranges for payment of any medical expenses for children without insurance. The Fund also provides liability insurance for hosts and committee volunteers.
In addition to the Friendly Town program, The Fund has five camps in upstate New York where 3,000 inner-city children enjoy free vacations each summer. The Fresh Air Fund also runs year-round programs to help New York City youngsters.
DONATE by phone:    1:800-367-0003
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