GULFPORT, MS (November 3, 2023) – Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has awarded a $50,000 grant to CASA of Hancock County and a $9,500 grant to Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs. These grants were awarded from the John T. and Lois R. “Sonny” Velkas Child Welfare Fund and were presented at GCCF’s annual Donor Appreciation Breakfast held November 3 at the Knight Nonprofit Center in Gulfport.
CASA of Hancock County will use the grant to expand the use of Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The organization utilizes this funding to lead a team of child welfare professionals, families, and court personnel to implement important trauma-informed practices with children and youth who are at risk.
“As an agency, CASA is dedicated to serving our most vulnerable abused and neglected children,” said Cynthia Chauvin, CASA executive director. “We are deeply grateful to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for its support of Trust-Based Relational Intervention. As a result of this support, we have been able to improve the lives of children across the Gulf Coast while at the same time equipping other community leaders to be able to implement trauma-informed work collaboratively.”
Traci Barrientos, executive director of Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia, said, “Lighthouse Academy is honored to be a recipient of a Velkas grant this year. Our vision is a future where all teachers are trained to recognize and remediate dyslexia, as it affects one in five students. This grant will provide much-needed funds to support teachers from Harrison and Hancock counties to train as Academic Language Therapists without leaving the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Dr. Christen Duhé, GCCF president and executive director, said, “We’re honored to support CASA of Hancock County and Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia for their important work advocating for the well-being of children in our community. The grants we have awarded are a testament to our ongoing commitment to support organizations that make a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable populations.”
The John T. and Lois R. “Sonny” Velkas Child Welfare Fund was established in 2021 to support child welfare initiatives in the community and has since been instrumental in making a meaningful impact on the lives of children in the Hancock County area. This funding has been a lifeline, providing much-needed resources and support for programs that are making a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children and families.
PHOTO 1: From left are Dave Vincent, chair, Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) Board of Directors; Dr. Christen Duhé, GCCF president and executive director; Cynthia Chauvin, executive director, CASA; and Naomi Strawhorn, Victim Services coordinator, CASA of Hancock County.
PHOTO 2: From left are Dave Vincent, chair, Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) Board of Directors; Dr. Christen Duhé, GCCF president and executive director; and Traci Barrientos, executive director of Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia.
About the Gulf Coast Community Foundation
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation is a non-profit public charity that has been serving the people of South Mississippi since 1989. The Foundation’s primary mission is to increase philanthropy by assisting donors in establishing endowments and legacy giving plans, making grants to worthy causes, and providing leadership in response to the community’s changing needs. Over the years, the GCCF has been a leader in addressing the most pressing needs in the community, from disaster relief and recovery to supporting education and child welfare initiatives. To learn more about the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the important work they do in the community, please visit their website at https://www.mgccf.org/.
About CASA Hancock County
CASA Hancock County is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of these children and ensuring that they have a bright future. CASA’s mission is to advocate for Hancock County’s abused & neglected children by supporting volunteers who promote safety, permanency, & resilience. For more information on CASA of Hancock County and their mission, please visit their website at casahancockcounty.org/.
About Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia
Studies show that while 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, only 17 percent of teachers can identify the characteristics of dyslexia in the classroom, and even fewer are confident they can deliver the necessary instruction to help students overcome this reading disability; consequently, less than 4% of those with dyslexia are identified or diagnosed.Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia was created to stand in the gap and push against the effects of unremediateddyslexia by creating a multifaceted 501c3, which includes training partnerships for teachers who seek to serve bright students who struggle to read, write, and spell. The Academy is in its second year of training educators. This partnership includes educators from Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties. Additionally, it requires 200 hours of coursework and a 700-hour clinical practicum, which can result in certification as a nationally recognized Academic Language Therapist (CALT) upon passing the national ALTA exam. With highly trained educators, life-changing intervention is possible for those who struggle. To learn more about Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia and the vital work they do, visit their website at lighthousedyslexia.org.