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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Alamo Area Council of Governments AAA

Learn how this Texas AAA identified and contracted with a local nonprofit to develop a back-to-school program that provides backpacks, school supplies and clothing to children being raised by grandparents or relative caregivers who are age 55 or older.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Alamo Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging's (AACOG) Older Relative Caregivers: Back to School program. The agency was a 2020 Aging Innovations Award winner in the Caregiving category. The AIA Awards are made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
Through community partnerships, employee donations and Older Relative Caregiver (ORC) funding, the Back to School program provides backpacks, school supplies, clothing and school uniforms to children being raised by grandparents or relative caregivers who are age 55 or older. Local partnerships enabled the program, which initially provided backpacks to a handful of families in need, to grow in recent years.
 
In December 2018, the AACOG developed a partnership with San Antonio Threads, a local nonprofit. The AAA provides funding and children's sizes and ages to San Antonio Threads, which gathers appropriately sized clothing and shoes so that families can “shop” in a boutique setting.
 
“We understand all too well that the number of kinship families grows each year and we are only able to assist a small percentage of them in our service regions. However, each year we have been able to increase the number of children that receive assistance through the program we offer,” said Paula Riggs, Support Services Coordinator at AACOG.
 
The number of ORC families served increases each year as funding increases. In 2019, a total of 297 children from 122 ORC families were served. Of those responding to client satisfaction surveys, 100 percent reported that the program has had a positive impact and 90 percent felt services provided resolved problems they were having.
 
“Our AAA's Family Caregiver Coalition had several members volunteer during the children's shopping experiences last year and they all felt it was one of the best volunteering experiences in which any of them had ever participated. While working with the families, the stories they heard were of hardships and difficulties—and yet, each and every one of the children and ORCs expressed such warm gratitude for our assistance,” Riggs added.   
 
While the in-person back-to-school voucher distribution and resource fair was not possible this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, AAA staff worked with the vendor to send all needed referrals. Flyers and brochures on community resources, special appointment cards and a letter of explanation were mailed to all registered Older Relative Caregiver families, noting the families were responsible for scheduling appointments for clothing shopping with the vendors, where social distancing protocols and safety measures were implemented. Staff also worked with the school districts to get backpacks delivered to the families.
 
Partnerships are key to success and will look different in every community. AAAs can use OAA Title III E funding for the program and start small. Word of mouth will help generate partnerships and grow support for the program.
 
Listen or watch n4a's November 12 webinar to learn more about the Alamo Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging's Older Relative Caregivers: Back to School program. Questions? Contact Gloria Vasquez, gvasquez@aacog.com.
 
For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices page.

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