The 2014 Givin’ Where I’m Livin’ (GWIL) campaign provides support and publicity for local non-profit charitable organizations competing for GWIL matching funds during the campaign’s Week of Online Giving, April 20-25th.
Around Dripping Springs is pleased to feature this series of GWIL non-profit profiles to help publicize their unique missions to the community. We invite you to get to know these wonderful organizers and learn more about the important work they are each doing to enrich our community. Please share their stories, and be sure to donate to your favorite during the Week of Online Giving! Learn more at: http://www.GivinWhereImLivin.org
NOW MEET FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE (FFL) WITH FOUNDER ANDREA PHILLIPS McCARTHY:
WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL, AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN DRIPPING SPRINGS?
I am a native Texan but have moved many times to other states. My dad was an NFL football coach and is famous for saying, “There are twokinds of coaches; them that’s been fired and them that’s gunna be,” so we moved quite a bit. I graduated from LSU with a BS in Psychology, and lived in New Orleans, where I met and married my husband, Jack, thirty years ago in March. My husband and I moved our family from Arkansas to Dripping Springs almost 20 years ago. We have four children that all graduated from DSHS.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION?
I had not intended to be teacher. My husband’s company was not doing well and Greg Jung, the principal at the high school at the time, knew I needed a job. He saw me interacting with one of my kids that I had given swim lessons that has special abilities and asked if I would consider a job as a long term substitute in the Life Skills classroom. I fell in love with the students right away and knew that is where God wanted me. I enrolled in the Region 13 Alternative Certification program to become a Special Education teacher that spring. The funny thing was, my husband’s company turned around and I never needed a job again! I worked for DSHS as a Life Skills teacher and Vocational Adjustment Coordinator for 8 years.
WHAT NEED DID YOU SEE AS A TEACHER HERE IN DRIPPING SPRINGS, THAT PROMPTED YOU TO START FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE IN 2013?
In my teacher training, I was told the goal was to make the students’ last day of services in the school distritct’s 18+ program to look just like their first day of
services, but without the school support. I had a wonderful woman named Lisa Whitaker working with me at the high school at the time. We did everything we could to prepare our students for life after school but it was apparent to us that without anything in the community for the students to “graduate to”, we would never be able to reach that goal.
HOW DID YOU GET THE VISION FOR FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE?
One of our students’ mom told me about a community in Oregon where she grew up. The entire community supported people with special abilities and that is when the idea for Friendships for Life began. Again, I felt God leading me, this time to work with adults in the community.
We had our first meeting in 2010 but it wasn’t until I could quit my job as a teacher that I could really work on getting the program going. My husband sold his company which allowed me to quit in June of 2012 and gave us the financial ability to start the program. I had two wonderful friends, Mike and Kim Wylie, that helped get all the paperwork filed for our exempt status and we received our 501c3 in April of 2013. I started working with just a couple of adults 1-2 days a week until I could hire Lisa Whitaker away from the high school to run the program.
WHERE DOES THE FFL PROGRAM HAPPEN EVERY DAY? HOW MANY CLIENTS DO YOU SERVE, WITH WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES?
We are so blessed that Church of the Springs, on Sports Park here in DS allows us to use the church for our program. Lisa, runs the program from 9:00-3:00 Monday through Thursday. Currently we have 7 adult members in our program. We work on things that are important for, and to, the members. They love serving their community which we do through working the Springs Food Pantry, delivering food to those who can’t come pick it up, visiting and helping with odd jobs at the Cottages, and visiting the folks at Hill Country Care. We have athletic and social activities such as bowling, bible study and holiday parties in which we involve the community as much as possible. We will have our annual March Madness basketball event with DSISD again this spring where the youth group at Church of the Springs pairs up with kids from the entire district, alumni, and guest players from surrounding communities for a night of skills and a fun game of basketball. The high school students make it such a memorable night with the band, cheerleaders, High Steppers, mascot and many volunteers participating.
In everything we do, we try to foster reciprocity. We have been to Wilson’s Appliance several times and used their kitchens for baking projects so one day we baked and served them a potato bar for lunch to thank them. When we receive donations, like the one we got from the DS Cookoff Club, we would like to reciprocate in some way because we truly feel blessed when we serve.
FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE RECENTLY RECEIVED A GENEROUS DONATION FROM ANOTHER AREA NON-PROFIT. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
Larry and Charlotte Franklin, who own the Franklin Family Ranch, have answered a prayer by donating a 15 passenger van to Friendships for Life. I can’t even talk about it without getting choked up. We had 6 adults in the program because that is all we could fit in my vehicle. With the donation of the van, we can now more than double the size of the program.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR FFL?
The program is classified as a community prep program and runs the same schedule as the school district. I would like to offer a summer program that expands to high school age or maybe even younger to help each individual build a good transition plan into the community for when they leave the school system.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I feel so blessed being able to work with these wonderful adults. One day Lisa and I took them out on my boat and afterward I was torn between wanting to tell everyone what an awesome time we had and feeling guilty that others didn’t get to experience the pure joy of that day. Every single day I am reminded of what a gift from God I have in these friendships that I have for life.
WHERE CAN FOLKS LEARN MORE ABOUT FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE?
We have a website: Friendshipsforlife.org
“Like” us on Facebook: Friendships for Life
Or contact us by email:
WEEK OF ONLINE GIVING:
APRIL 20-25, 2014
GIVIN’ WHERE I’M LIVIN’ http://www.givinwhereimliving.org
DS COMMUNITY FOUNDATION http://www.dscommunityfoundation.org
GWIL2014 IS SPONSORED BY: