Non-Profit Takes Kid-Forward Message to St. Joseph

Non-Profit Takes Kid-Forward Message to St. Joseph

Jeff Spangler represents Bright Futures USA, a non-profit that consults schools on how to efficiently get resources to at-risk children.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) In front of a packed house at the Troester Media Center, Wendy Czerwonka tells the emotional story of her childhood, growing up in poverty and living all over the place - including a time living in Africa.

"I had a very humble childhood," Czerwonka said. "[It was] a very crisis-oriented childhood.  I am who I am today, and I've been given gifts to be here, and it's my job to help others."

She is the wife of St. Joseph superintendent Fred Czerwonka, and she currently works in the District with homeless children.

She says it's because of her childhood she can relate to their struggles.

"When they have a crisis, I can feel exactly where they are, from the crisis I went through, that my sisters and brothers went through.  Definitely, I can feel their pain," Mrs. Czerwonka said.

She gives the floor to former school principal turned pastor Jeff Spangler.

Spangler has also seen childhood strife first hand.

When an EF-5 tornado ravaged Joplin two years ago, destroying several schools, he was there.

And he saw a community come together and rebuild.

"We saw success in kids coming back to school, trusting in school, needs being met.  Many communities saw the success in that and wanted the one thing that could bring us all together, meaning that we could have success in our initiatives and schools as well," Spangler said.

Spangler represents Bright Futures USA, a non-profit that consults school districts on how to get children their basic needs.

Bright Futures has its origins in Joplin, but has affiliates in several other communities.

Spangler is in St. Joseph to gather interest in becoming a new Bright Futures affiliate.

He tells a room full of people in social services, charity work, and public office that without a sense of community unity, not all needs are met.

"Common unity is when a group of people turn their attention away from competition and titles and look and say 'What's the best I can offer with my time, my talent, and my treasures to help build capacity to help our kids?'" Spangler explains.

Wendy Czerwonka says she is on board, and would want their influence on the St. Joseph School District.

"This is figuring out ways to use the resources and the services that we are already doing and pulling it together," she said.

Spangler says that in order to get to the needs of every child, a sense of community needs to return to towns like St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph School District will hold several more meetings before it will decide whether or not to become a bright futures affiliate.
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