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Empowering Families and Encouraging Youth of All Ages at Touching Miami with Love

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Touching Miami with Love first began in 1994. The Miami organization focuses on children, youth and adults in the Overtown community and recently through a merger the West Homestead community as well.

Assistant Director Angel Pittman explains the significance, "Our recent merger with Open House Ministries as they became the West Homestead Site of Touching Miami with Love allows us to pool our resources to impact the children, youth and adults in one of Miami-Dade's poorest communities even more."

As their name suggests, their endeavors are a labor of love and have been for over 20 years. The new West Homestead Site allows more children to be served in the after school hours by working with the nearby West Homestead Elementary School. In addition to the increased number of children served in their Tomorrow's Leaders Children's Program through the merger, high school youth are benefitting too. "Our high school youth in West Homestead now have staff help two hours a day for academic support and mentoring in addition to the continuation of our long-standing youth program three evenings a week," says Pittman.

All parents need support to raise happy, healthy, well-educated children and families, support that often eludes those in lower economic tiers where parents may be working several jobs or kids are raised in single-parent families. Touching Miami with Love's programs to parents focus on empowerment. "We don't tell parents what they need to do, we offer them resources and encouragement to empower them to be a better parent, just like all parents want to be," states Pittman.

The Parent Empowerment Project is part of the family guidance so crucial to Touching Miami with Love's mission. Undertaken in partnership with Miami-Dade Public Schools, this program helps parents become better engaged with their child's education and their community. "Now in our second year, we're seeing more parents spending time in their child's school, engaging more with their child's teacher and connecting more with their family," says Pittman. "We conduct twice-a-month meetings on topics of interest to our parents: tips for creating healthy dialogue, how to apply for MDPS' Schools of Choice programs and positive discipline strategies."

Taking place at Overtown Site and out in the community, these meetings give families opportunities to experience life differently than their income would normally allow. For instance, one event is "The Communication Cruise," which takes place a few hours in the evening on a yacht sponsored by Biscayne Lady Yacht Charters where children and adults learn ways to improve family life in a relaxed water setting.

Being an active part of the community you serve is key to a safe community. Pittman tells us, "It's a known fact that the level of individual civic engagement changes based on where you live." Touching Miami with Love's Executive Director, Jason, and Angel, Assistant Director, are married and own a home in Overtown where they raise their family. Both Site Directors and many staff members also live in their target areas of Overtown and West Homestead. "We aim to make life better through involvement in issues facing the communities we serve," exclaims Pittman, "because it's our community too!"

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