LINCOLN -- Out of 70 Bright Futures communities in eight states, Lincoln Bright Futures is regularly referred to as one of the model programs, said Kim Vann, executive director of Bright Futures USA in Joplin, Mo.
Vann was one of many guests who attended a Thanksgiving meal hosted by Lincoln Bright Futures last week to thank volunteers for giving "time, talents and treasures" to help students in the Lincoln Consolidated School District.
"I feel like Lincoln is a hidden gem," Vann said. "It is a giving community that uses all the parts of the frameworks for Bright Futures."
Vann said Lincoln Bright Futures brings together the school and community to serve students and is teaching students to give back themselves.
"Lincoln gets it," Vann said. "When I think of Lincoln, I smile because they get it."
Vann said many smaller schools and communities that do not have the resources found in larger communities would use that as an excuse not to meet needs.
That's not the case in Lincoln, she said.
"That's not the attitude here. They don't give up until they've solved the needs or problems facing their students."
Bright Futures also succeeds in Lincoln, Vann said, because school Superintendent Mary Ann Spears supports and has a vision for the program and coordinator Donna Thompson has a "heart of gold" and goes above and beyond to help meet students' needs.
Lincoln joined the national Bright Futures organization based out of Joplin, Mo., in May 2015. The first year it met 838 needs by providing items such as shoes, socks, underwear, clothes and backpacks.
The goal of Bright Futures is to have every child's basic needs met so that he or she can achieve success and graduate.
The program provides a central place to help schools meet the needs of their students by networking with civic groups, churches, parent groups, businesses and individuals in a community.
Lincoln's program has a Bright Futures advisory board and a Facebook page. Thompson uses the Facebook page to post needs that children have and the objective is to meet these needs with 24 hours.
Jana Claybrook, master executive teacher with Lincoln schools and an advisory board member, opened the Thanksgiving banquet by thanking those in the room.
"It's all about community and all of you in this room have given one of these things, time, talent or treasures," Claybrook told more than 60 people in the community room at the school's administration office on Nov 6.
"We connect the school and the community together and make prospective leaders for the future. That's what our goal is for our students, to learn about service learning along the process."
During the past year, Lincoln Bright Futures met 522 specific needs identified through its Facebook page, Claybrook said.
Needs met included numerous pairs of shoes, four water bills, two electric bills, a water pump donated for a family who had been without water, diapers, four caps and gowns for 2019 and two for 2020 graduation, two senior yearbooks, three prom tickets, three senior trips, various club fees for students, school supply fees, auto repair and labor donated, travel size soaps and shampoos for hygiene bags, and toothbrush sets and toothpaste.
Lincoln Bright Futures also is involved in other activities to help students.
The annual Back to School Bonanza served 99 families with 212 children this year. The Little Free Food Pantry, now located outside the administration office, provides snacks for students.
A Lunch Buddy program pairs mentors with children. This year, 25 volunteers are eating lunch with an elementary or middle school student.
The district's Angel Tree program, which provides Christmas gifts for children, served 250 children last year. So far for 2019, 170 children are signed up as angels. Every child on the Angel tree receives two outfits, shoes and socks, underwear, coat, hat, hygiene and an age-appropriate toy.
Claybrook said the Bright Futures program provides opportunities for students to give back. Several student groups helped with the Back to School Bonanza and two groups are responsible for the Little Free Food Pantry.
The program is described as a "hand up, not a handout," Claybrook said.
Spears also pointed out that most needs are met very quickly through the Facebook page. One instance, she said, was a high school student who needed steel-toe shoes for a new job. Within a couple hours, someone met the need, Spears said.
Bright Futures Lincoln has some money to meet needs but has not had to use the reserve fund very much because the community is stepping in to help, Spears said.
"We post it on Facebook and people get back pretty quickly. I think that's amazing for our community," Spears said.
Special guests at the Thanksgiving banquet included Mayor Doug Hutchens, police Chief Kenneth Albright, state Rep. Charlene Fite (R-District 80), Lincoln Chamber members, Lincoln Kiwanis members, school administrators, School Board members and those from the community.
Claybrook, looking out over the room, said, "It's taking all of us to serve our kids."
General News on 11/13/2019