PAYETTE, Idaho — An organization committed to growing stronger families in rural Idaho weathered the past year by doing what they do best, connecting teachers and parents. Western Idaho Community Action Partnership, or WICAP, now needs our support.
The nonprofit is running desperately low on baby essentials for their participants and you have the chance to help during the Idaho News 6 Community Baby Shower.
It's hard to believe that Felicia Johnson's son, Zamian, couldn't speak until he was three. Felicia says the love of the WICAP program saved her son after he was diagnosed with autism.
Zamian started free preschool and speech therapy sessions at WICAP, and within three months of being in class, he said his first sentence: "Mom, I want to go to school."
Zamian's wish is coming true, the 5-year-old graduated from the Payette Head Start Program and is now headed to kindergarten. This kind of success story is normal for the WICAP staff, who believe in breaking cycles through education and mental health awareness.
"These families are already in low-income situations and we are trying to give them a hand up, not a hand down. They rely on this program, every single day they rely on us to help get them out of the poverty they are into," said Barbara Cabrera, a WICAP Teacher.
"They are not judgmental. They are more understanding than judgmental and it makes things so much easier," said Amber Brown, a parent at WICAP. "When people judge you it makes you want to huddle back into your shell. But when they are understanding, or even if they don’t understand they will try and look into information to help you find out. They don’t give up on you."
Amber and Adam are one of 30 families who receive home visits where teachers work one-on-one to motivate and equip parents.
"Whatever needs we have, they help. Anything I had questions with, they helped me find the answers," said Amber. "And it wasn’t like doing it for me. They let me do it myself, they just put me on the right path. It was really what I needed."
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, WICAP didn't stop. Teachers sent educational materials and baby essentials to participants' homes weekly. When many couldn't get online in the rural community, WICAP got Chromebooks donated so families could participate in check-ins and group activities on Zoom.
"I'm still thankful that we are able to have the Zoom meetings because those are what's been making me get through this," said Cassidy Cortez, a WICAP parent.
With in-person sessions starting up again, the parents say they realize now more than ever how much they need each other.
"It’s the sense of community and having people there for you and it’s not just for the kids, it’s for the parents to help us all grow," said Rebeckah Ames, another parent at WICAP.
This year, you can buy or drop off new baby supplies at any Albertsons store in the Treasure Valley on June 9. But you don't have to wait until then, you can click here and donate now. You can also text the word BABY to 345345.
Albertsons will be matching the first $15,000 we raise, so join us in person on June 9 or online right now the help support the youngest members of our community.