Amria Farnsworth is from Northern Utah and is currently a Dietetics Intern at Utah State University (USU) graduating this spring. In the past few years, Amria has been heavily involved with the Val. R. Christensen Service Center at USU, especially with the various food programs. These experiences have allowed her to connect with and help people. She’s worked primarily with reducing food insecurity on campus and in the community. She grew up in a multicultural family and developed a passion for learning about people, their cultures and their stories and finding ways to help them. She also is a self-proclaimed foodie so becoming a registered dietitian is her way of combining her passions.
This coming year she will continue completing her 1000-hour Dietetic Internship at various facilities in Utah and Arizona. She is currently interning at Root For Kids in Southern Utah. This is an Early Head Start and Early Intervention program serving 600 families per month. Amria has been working on bolstering the nutrition screening information, providing updated nutrition information for employees to share with enrolled families, researching effective interventions for children with feeding issues, and updating facility menus among other things.
Upon completion of her hours, Amria will take the exam to become a registered dietitian. Afterwards she plans on pursuing a Master of Public Health. She hopes to work in a hospital treating patients for the first few years of her career. Eventually, she wants to advance her career in public health to increase and improve the efforts of chronic disease prevention. She’s excited to become a registered dietitian and use her experiences to develop a career improving the health and lives of others.
In August 2021, our Special Events Director Monica Jones celebrated 15 years at Root for Kids (previously The Learning Center for Families)! She currently plans all of our large events such as the Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament and the Radiothon. But she has done so much throughout the years! We asked her to share her story below.
In November 2000, Debbie Justice (founder of TLC) visited my high school’s service club to share about her organization, The Learning Center for Families (TLC). It was like my heart had been pricked. After Debbie’s visit, I could not stop thinking about what she described of her organization and how passionately she spoke. Our service club organized a book drive for the beginnings of their lending library and assisted with wrapping Christmas gifts for enrolled families.
At this time, TLC was only providing services through Early Intervention state grants for Washington County, UT and the Arizona Strip. I would estimate they were serving an average of 150-200 children annually in a mixture of home-based and center-based services. Children with center-based services were dropped off by parents two times a week for a two-hour class. It is funny to think back on how our main services with families were with the parent and child separated. Thankfully, with the continuation of research and experience we were able to shift the focus of our services to a family focused model of supporting and modeling for parents and assisting them with implementing strategies and goals within their homes and daily routines.
After the first of the year in 2001, I stopped by the TLC office to visit with Debbie and ask about additional volunteering that might be available. I was desperate to learn more. We were able to organize work release credit where I came Monday-Friday for three hours each day to volunteer as a classroom aide, and in exchange I earned school credit toward graduation. It was a win-win!
During the last five months of my senior year, I fell in love with TLC and their mission. They were doing amazing work with children. I loved every minute of my time. As the school year ended, I was sad to leave. I had made new friendships with the staff and learned so much about child development- and of course loved the tiny, adorable children! A couple of weeks before graduation, Debbie asked if I could stay after one day and visit with her a little bit. If anyone knows Debbie, and knows who I was at 18, I was a little scared! She introduced me to Caroline Bass, an Occupational Therapist and one of the first employees of TLC. We visited about the last five months, and I shared some of my experiences and a-ha moments during that time. As the conversation begin to close, Debbie offered me a full-time position. I was speechless.
I officially began as an employee June 1, 2001 as a fresh high school graduate. I began as a classroom aide for EI classes and the play based therapy with Craig Roberts, and as a custodian. I was blessed to observe and learn from some of the most intelligent and compassionate people, some of whom are still employed here. I began our first toy and equipment inventory system, solely by pen and paper as the internet and computers weren’t very popular at this point in time. I ate up everything I could possibly learn. I signed up for every professional development opportunity and met more passionate early childhood educators.
During one of these trainings, I met someone from Utah’s School for the Deaf and Blind. My dream had always been to work with children who were deaf and hard of hearing. It felt like kismet. I learned more about deafblind children and services that are available for them. In the Washington County School District there were a set of four children in the same grade who were receiving services from USDB and they were going to place them in the same classroom to be taught in their native language, American Sign Language. It felt like I was being led to this opportunity. After a year and a half as an employee at TLC, I made the difficult decision to leave. I was hired as a Deafblind Intervener with USDB.
My time with the deaf students was a dream come true; I had been taking ASL classes since I was in 4th grade. It was a career path I had set as my goal in my 9th grade career exploration class. Knowing the language was one thing, learning how to motivate 10-year-olds to practice their math and English homework was another story! I learned so much during the first school year, again meeting some incredible people who mentored and taught me so much. During the second school year with USDB I decided I wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I moved forward with preparations and by Christmas of 2003 they had found a replacement for my position, and I said goodbye to the Deaf class.
Early in 2004 my application process as a missionary was a delayed a little bit, so I began to search for a part time job. One afternoon I was driving down Sunset Boulevard when I saw one of the TLC employees turning into the TLC office parking lot. It had been a year a half since I had seen her and before I knew it, I was pulling in behind her. We were so excited to see one another and catch up. TLC had expanded so much over the last year and a half. She took me around don a tour of the expanded offices, introduced me to new employees and I embraced the staff I had previously worked with. All the excitement and passion swarmed all around me and I was head over heels for TLC again.
TLC had recently been awarded a new federal grant for an Early Head Start (EHS) program. They were right at the beginning phase of structuring the program, designing paperwork, creating spreadsheets for data tracking and marketing for enrollment. I shared that I was working towards leaving on a mission, but I was looking for a part time job in the meantime. I was surprised to leave that day as a new employee of TLC! This time I was working in the office helping the team create a database of sorts through Excel spreadsheets to track enrollment data and health requirements for their brand new 60 openings for EHS children.
I quickly moved to full-time hours as it became necessary. Once we got enrollment moving and our spreadsheets were functioning well, my responsibilities broadened to more tasks with Health Services: scheduling hearing and vision screenings, requesting and receiving medical records, plus lots of other odds and ends! I ended up staying a little over a year, leaving in May 2005. It was incredible to see our organization grow through the addition of the EHS grant and the ever growing impact it was having on the families of Washington County.
After my time as a missionary I moved to Orem, UT to pursue my education. Since my high school graduation I had taken a class here and there at Dixie State University, but nothing towards an actual degree. I was ready to move forward in my education and to help make an impact on the world. Utah Valley University (UVU) had recently begun their Deaf Education programs and I was ecstatic. In 2009, during my second year of school, I was walking the halls of UVU and it happened to be career week. I passed by a booth that had photos of infants and toddlers- one photo in particular stood out to me. A photo of toddlers sitting in brightly colored cube chairs stopped me dead in my tracks. My heart rose in my chest, and I was flooded with memories of my time at TLC. It was like being drenched in a rainstorm. It was all I could think about for days. I was deep in my deaf education program, and ironically, just a few weeks before this I had found myself dreading my interpreting service hours. This felt like a push to rethink my goals. But I pushed it aside and continued the semester.
When summer came, things were coming up at home and my brother was needing some support and I felt like I needed to return to St. George to be with my family. I left Orem with a plan to return to my job and schooling. I had acquired new housing, registered for classes, and secured my job at a local bookstore. I headed home for the summer.
It was down to the wire, I would say a week, maybe 10 days before I needed to return to school at UVU, and I made the decision to stay in St. George. I was so torn, but felt I needed to stay close to family. I immediately applied to DSU and registered for classes.
A dear friend from TLC let me stay in her basement for the summer, and she was kind to allow me to stay through the end of the year. Since I didn’t have many bills, I wasn’t rushed to find a job and I just focused on school and family. I changed my degree to early childhood education and worked towards finishing an associate’s degree at DSU. A few weeks into the semester, my friend shared that TLC was preparing for the federal review of their EHS program. They had been providing services for about five years at this point. She had asked Debbie if they would like some assistance auditing files in preparation. She said yes, and I began a temp job with TLC auditing files. The review preparations went on for about six weeks, and before I knew it, I was offered a part-time position as a home visitor for early intervention.
In early 2010, TLC was given an expansion grant from the Office Head Start that expanded the existing EHS program from 60 children to 132 children. I applied for a full-time home visitor position that would expand my responsibilities to EHS families and EI families. I was part of a lucky group of 10 additional women that joined the organization.
Since 2009, I graduated from DSU with my bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Communication, with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. I have enjoyed six more job positions within Root for Kids that have opened my knowledge and experience to additional home visiting programs, data management, staff training and development, to leading the EHS program and now serving on our development team designing fundraising events for our incredible organization. We have rebranded to Root for Kids to better align with our mission and have expanded from one program to five. We are now serving 600+ families every month.
The word ‘grateful’ is not enough to express how fortunate I feel to be apart of the Root for Kids organization. It is a part of who I am, it is marked in my very DNA. I am so grateful for the multiple opportunities I have had to return to the organization, for the incredible people I have the honor to observe and learn from, and for being a witness to the beautiful and inspiring work within family’s homes. There is no better place I would rather be.
We are very fortunate to have Monica in our team! If you want to be a part of Root for Kids, check out our employment opportunities.
Just the other day we were planning a family vacation to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday and a common thought came to mind – “But this trip is mostly for us right? She won’t remember anything!” As I pondered about that, I realized that the point of exposing our children to a variety of experiences early on is not so much to create beautiful memories for them (as it is for us), but to support their developing brain. She won’t remember the trip, but she will explore, laugh, learn to adapt, build trust and most importantly feel loved – all factors that positively affect child development. With 90% of the brain developing by age five, there’s no question that the first years of a child’s life are defining. Check out these five amazing facts about child development!
“Infants have a biological need for love and begin to form emotional bonds with their caregiver at birth”
A lot of parents are concerned about spoiling their babies. But there is not such thing as giving too much love to an infant! Emotional bonds play an important part in your child’s development. Starting from birth, babies learn who they are by how they are treated! (Source: Zero to Three)
“Music plays an important role in building babies’ emotional basis and helping them gain a sense of confidence”
We know that music helps babies develop a variety of skills such as language and math. But it also helps build their confidence! When babies sing songs and dance to rhythms they are having fun and gaining a sense of themselves. Try our Kindermusik class and see it for yourself!
“Stable, caring, interactive relationships with adults will benefit healthy brain development of young children”
It seems that us adults are always looking for ways to change things up but children thrive in routine and stability. The more they know what to expect from you and their environment, the more comfortable and calm they will be. At the same time, the opposite (unstable caregiving, deprivation of love, neglect, etc.) will increase the likelihood of poor health and development throughout their life. (Source: World Health Organization)
“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning”
As Mister Rogers once explained, “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Our home visiting programs provide support and education for pregnant women and families with children under five. Learn more about our programs and apply today to get the best ideas from child development specialists.
“The brain develops most rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life. The ongoing interchange between genes and different environments – within which children are born, grow, learn and live – shapes the developing brain”
Our brains are truly amazing. “During these critical years, the foundation is laid for a child’s physical and mental health, affecting everything from longevity to the lifelong capacity to learn, from the ability to adapt to change to the capacity for resilience against adverse circumstances.” (Source: World Health Organization)
We were excited to present this year’s awards in person at our Nurture & Grow Annual Luncheon. Each recipient has made unparalleled contributions to Root for Kids and the kids we serve.
Outstanding Community Partner: Dixie State University
We have developed a strong relationship with Dixie State University, and they have become one of our greatest community partners. The students, athletes, coaches, professors, and administrators have volunteered with us in many capacities including: making bottle shakers, lacing kits, activity kits, painting our logo on puzzle blocks for our little ones, re-bundling diapers, cleaning/sanitizing our childcare toys and helping to maintain our yard. Many have also shadowed our home visitors, therapists, teachers, and staff.
DSU has invited us to be a part of their career fairs to promote our organization where we have recruited interns and even found students we have hired as employees. We are fortunate to have many student interns that come through our doors and leave more equipped for the challenges they will face in their future business or nonprofit careers. We also love that we can share the world of child development and the nonprofit sector with them.
Outstanding Business: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Nearly 10 years ago, Nothing Bundt Cakes St. George was a simple dream for Kelly and Claudia Clayton. After their first Bite of Joy at a Thanksgiving Dinner, they just knew they had to share it with all their friends and family! Though they never imagined their dream would become a reality, in November 2019, it did just that as they opened the doors of their family-owned bakery.
Partnering with Root for Kids has been the perfect match since the bakery opened! They will never forget the first time they brought bundtinis over to the Root for Kids staff! Everyone was kind and welcoming and best of all, they loved the cake! Since then, our friendship and partnership has blossomed as Nothing Bundt Cakes has chosen Root for Kids for their Annual Charity Day and offered sponsorships, including desserts for the 2021 Charity Gala and sweet treats for the entire Root for Kids community! With the help of their daughter Kelsey and son-in-law Benetton, and all 5 of their children and spouses, they find nothing more rewarding, than Spreading the Joy to their local community through delicious cake!
Outstanding Health Partner: Southwest Utah Public Health Department
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department serves the residents of Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver, and Garfield counties with the mission of protecting the community’s health through the promotion of wellness and the prevention of disease. From our agency’s inception, Root for Kids has had a rich and collaborative partnership. Together we share referrals back and forth for each other programs that benefit our enrolled families and children.
Prior to early childhood education staff being approved to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, our Health Department were aware of our needs and knew we serve a vulnerable population and made sure we had access to the vaccine as soon as possible. Much of the work they do is preventive and behind-the-scenes. They have been at the forefront of our region’s disease investigation and vaccination efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and have appreciated working with all community residents and community partners during this challenging time.
Outstanding Volunteer: Fred Walker
Fred Walker has volunteered with Root for Kids in many capacities, along with his team from Infowest and with groups of college students. During different volunteer projects Fred made sure his groups were engaged and enjoying their time- including keeping them well fed! He has helped us prepare for our annual radiothons by putting together needed supplies. Fred and his team have been great to assist us with re-bundling diapers for the families we serve.
Fred is known for his phrase: “But wait….there’s more!” And boy is there so much more to Fred’s relationship with our organization. He attended the ribbon cutting of our Kindermusik Studio grand opening and loved trying out the children’s new musical instruments. There is never a dull moment with Fred!
Fred’s affinity to our organization is most impressive. The fact that at the last minute he stepped up to tag team our virtual gala in 2020 as the Emcee, speaks to his willingness to support and engage in the community and with our agency. We are very grateful for his support and his advocacy for children!
Outstanding Donor: Nancy Hubler
Over the years at Root for Kids we have noticed a theme: most of our board members just can’t quit us. We have several board members who continue to serve because we love this organization, and we believe so strongly in the mission.
Nancy Hubler is a perfect example of this. Nancy originally joined the board back in March 2014 and shortly thereafter became the Treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee. She left in 2016 to work for the Ohio Department of Insurance and upon her return in 2018, we were fortunate enough to have her rejoin the board and the Finance Committee. She has helped to secure sponsorships for our fundraising events in the past and goes above and beyond with her own generous donations to Root for Kids.
To say that 2020 was a challenging year is an understatement. Just like most people and businesses, here at Root for Kids we had to get creative (and very virtual/remote) to keep going! We continued to serve hundreds of families during the pandemic and thankfully had the support of amazing people in the community. Check out our top 10 moments of 2020!
Every December, Mix 103.1, Coyote Country 102.9, Kool 98.9 and Zion 104.1 come to Root for Kids and broadcast live from our lobby during the annual Radiothon, volunteers join us for special projects, donors come in to take pictures with their donations and tour the building… except in 2020. With social distancing and safety concerns in mind, the traditional Radiothon turned into a drive-thru! The radio stations broadcasted from their studio and people from all over town drove by to drop off donations and their change. Online and Venmo donations were extremely popular too, and we were able to raise over $20,000 in one day!
The Secret Garden Gala: Home Edition
The annual gala quickly became a favorite event at Root for Kids. We were excited to make The Secret Garden Gala bigger and better in 2020, but again we had to adapt. The Secret Garden Gala: Home Edition took place on Saturday, September 12, 2020 with the support of 18 sponsors and 132 guests who joined us online from Washington County, Salt Lake City and Idaho. Between sponsorships, ticket sales, auction and monetary donations the unprecedented virtual event raised $68,128, exceeding our $60,000 goal! We broadcasted live from Root for Kids and guests joined us via Zoom. All guests received gift cards to purchase dinner and party hosts also received a centerpiece to bring the magic of the gala into their home.
Virtual Home Visits
All families enrolled in Early Head Start, Early Intervention and Parents as Teachers receive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly home visits, depending on the child’s needs. Starting in March 2020, the visits moved online in order to keep the families and our staff safe. It was definitely challenging to get the ball rolling, but it was so important to keep providing services. We even did Speech Therapy sessions online!
Food and Diaper Deliveries
More than ever the families we serve benefited from receiving diaper bundles and food boxes from the Utah Food Bank. Typically, the families would come to the center once a month to pick up their food box but in the interest of avoiding crowds, the home visitors delivered the boxes every month at their door step.
It’s humbling to think about how many people and businesses were willing to give and support young kids in our community in 2020. When COVID-19 hit, we weren’t sure what to expect but our donors showed up and helped us keep providing services. We are so lucky to be part of such a giving community!
It’s always inspiring when people donate their time to our organization. Our volunteers didn’t hesitate about the changes and were happy to take projects with them when needed! They helped put together the block puzzles our little graduates receive, doing activity kits for the children and bundling diapers.
It’s so fun to celebrate the little kids aging out and graduating from Root for Kids programs! We usually invite them with their families to celebrate with dinner and a graduation ceremony. Last year, the home visitors delivered a “graduation kit” for each child with a graduation hat, their diploma, block puzzle and other donated gifts.
One Utah Child Care
The Caterpillar Clubhouse was one of the few childcare centers that remained open in our area. We realized it was an essential service to provide for the parents who weren’t able to work remotely. In addition to the regular 0-5 classrooms, we partnered up with One Utah Child Care program to provide free childcare for first responders families.
It seems like forever ago that we all could get together in an indoor venue for a concert. But before quarantine, we had the pleasure to welcome Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night at the Cox Auditorium for an amazing concert! The event was generously presented by The American Dream Foundation and all ticket sales proceeds benefited Root for Kids.
With a lot of coordination and creativity, our Health Services team was able to resume free health clinics for clients in July 2020. Families were assigned time slots with plenty of time between appointments for proper sanitizing. Services provided included vision and hearing screenings, blood lead and hematocrit tests, and fluoride.
We are grateful for everyone that made 2020 a little lighter and brighter at Root for Kids! Thank you for your support. To keep helping young kids have the best start in life, donate here.
It’s hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner! It’s been a rough year in many ways, but there’s something about coming together to support a great cause that brings hope and warms people’s hearts during the holiday season. Hosting a donation drive is a fun way to get family, friends and the neighborhood into the holiday spirit and do something good for the community! Check out these five tips on how to host a donation drive.
1. Choose a Local Partner
Think of a cause you care about and look up local organizations in your community. You want to make sure the donations you are collecting are things people actually need! Many nonprofits have a wish list posted on their website of items needed, so you can use that as a reference to ask for donations. It also adds credibility to your donation drive when people know where the donations are going.
At Root for Kids, we serve pregnant women and children from birth to age 5 in Washington County and the Arizona Strip. Every month we serve 600 children through Early Head Start, Early Intervention and Parents as Teachers home visiting programs. If you’re in the St. George area, we’d love to partner with you!
You can host the drive on your own or you can partner with family members, friends, church groups, school groups, etc. to reach an even broader audience. Decide together who you want to support and go to the next step…
3. Define Timeframe and Drop-Off Location(s)
Decide when you want to take the donations to the organization. You can check with the organization first to see if there any preferred donation drop off dates and times (especially during the holidays and COVID-19). Define a drop-off location and give people enough time to bring the donations (at least 2 weeks).
Our next fundraiser event is the Drive-Thru Radiothon on December 14, 2020. We are encouraging people to stop by Root for Kids (2044 S. Mesa Palms Drive – St. George, UT 84770) between 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. to drop off donations.
4. Spread the Word
Now that you have all the details sorted out, you are ready to get the word out about your donation drive! You can create a flyer or poster to take around the neighborhood and make it an image as well to share on social media. You want to include the following details:
The organization you are benefiting and a little bit about what they do
Wish list of items needed
Drop-off dates and location
Your contact information
Again, you can always contact the organization to see if they already have something designed you can use. If you’re interested in hosting a drive for Root for Kids, feel free to download the image below to share and the PDF for printing.
5. Gather and Deliver
Collect donations from the drop off location(s) and deliver them to the organization you picked. Don’t forget to take pictures and share on social media (tagging the organization), so your followers and people who donated know they’ve made an impact!
We hope you have found these tips helpful and are motivated to do something for your community this holiday season. Feel free to use the materials on this post and on the Radiothon page to host your donation drive benefitting Root for Kids.