On June 25th, over sixty people gathered to celebrate the completion of Caring and Sharing of South Walton’s first “Awaken” class, where six courageous women spent fourteen weeks developing their leadership skills, building community, dreaming about their future and setting SMART goals. In addition twenty-four volunteers were recognized for completing a complementary volunteer training program. At the celebration, three of the Awaken graduates shared testimonies of their journey with the Communities of Transformation (COT) program and expressed their excitement to be moving into “matched groups” with sixteen trained volunteers for ongoing support as they work on their goals. The Awaken graduates are trauma and abuse survivors, grieving significant losses, in recovery, finalizing divorces, and struggling to make ends meet. They are also passing exams, serving in our schools, staying sober, publishing articles in the local paper, caring for family members, volunteering in the community, re-entering the workforce, making new friends, learning to trust themselves and others, getting counseling, visiting local churches, and asking for prayer.
In addition to the testimonies of the Awaken graduates, one of the most powerful parts of the evening was to see how many different churches and community stakeholders were involved in supporting COT. In addition to Caring and Sharing of South Walton, who provides financial oversight and the 501c3 umbrella for the program, other major partners in launching this first COT site in Florida (there are nine other COT sites in Alabama) included Good News United Methodist Church, Community Church of Santa Rosa Beach, Christ the King Episcopal Church, the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Crust Restaurant.
Caring and Sharing of South Walton’s “Communities of Transformation” program has been meeting most Tuesday nights for dinner and programming since March 14th at Good News United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa Beach. On August 27th at 5:30 pm at Good News UMC, we will host a “Taste and See” for anyone interested in learning more or joining the next cohort of Awaken class members or volunteers. The next Awaken class begins on September 10 and will be facilitated by Amariles and Donny Rosado. Amariles Rosado is the new assistant director at Caring and Sharing of South Walton and co-facilitated the first Awaken class with Erica Averion, who continues to serve on the Leadership Team and as a champion for COT in the community. Amariles has extensive experience working with nonprofits, facilitating classes, and relating to people of diverse backgrounds. The next volunteer training class will also begin on September 10, facilitated by Caring and Sharing Board member Jane Liston and Community Church’s “Learning Through Loss” grief group facilitator C.C. Whittinghill. For more information or to RSVP, either for the August 27 Taste and See or the Sept. 10th class, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-783-0237.