‘Bright Futures for Youth’: Friendship Club, NEO merge efforts to serve Nevada County | TheUnion.com
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‘Bright Futures for Youth’: Friendship Club, NEO merge efforts to serve Nevada County

Submitted to The Union

The Friendship Club and NEO (New Events and Opportunities) have announced their merger expected to be completed by the end of August, a step that will enhance their capacity to meet the ever increasing needs of youth in Nevada County, a news release states.

“The merged organizations have similar efforts and goals, and we can help ensure stronger and more expansive support for youth during this important time in their lives,” Jennifer Litton Singer, executive director of The Friendship Club, said in the release. The organization started as a pilot program with 15 girls in 1995 and now serves more than 125 youth a year.

“Helping youth transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency is a far-reaching goal of both The Friendship Club and NEO,” the release states. “Young men and women are provided academic, emotional and social support, life-skills training, career education and access to counseling and health care.”

In 2019, The Friendship Club expanded to serve 16 to 24 years olds experiencing homelessness through its SAFE program (Stability, Access, Foundation, Empowerment).

“The Friendship Club and NEO have extensive experience working with youth, their families and the community,” Litton Singer said. “Joining together is part of a focused effort to ensure young people have hope, opportunity and the capacity to succeed.”

NEO was co-founded by Halli Ellis-Edwards and Lynn Skrukrud in 2008. NEO has evolved to embrace a holistic approach to wellness, addressing the root causes of substance abuse and mental health issues through events and its Youth Center.

According to the release, NEO is moving the Youth Center to a new location with plans to reopen when services can safely be offered again. In the meantime, NEO is providing virtual programming and pop-up summer camp events. The Friendship Club is also providing summer activities to youth. Both organizations are implementing all required practices to maintain social distancing and safety protocols.

“Youth are facing more challenges in this modern world,” the release states. “By coming together, the organizations will be stronger and able to serve more youth in better ways. The Friendship Club and NEO will meet the needs of several hundred youth every year. Youth in the community can use one or a combination of the programs, receiving services in numerous ways.”

“We’re extremely grateful for what we’ve accomplished and how we helped fill a great need in the community,” said Ellis-Edwards, who along with Skrukrud, was 19 when they founded NEO.

“Combining the organizations will allow more youth and young adults opportunities to access a safe, fun and supportive environment while getting services they need to thrive,” said Skrukrud.

‘ONE-STOP SHOP’

The merged organization will be known as “Bright Futures for Youth” to better describe its expanded mission and vision for youth in Nevada County, the release states. The organization will be comprised of three aligned programs: The Friendship Club, NEO and SAFE.

“The new, multilayered organization will provide comprehensive services to meet the many, and sometimes very specific, needs of youth in the area,” the release states. The name change is pending approval from the California Secretary of State. The Friendship Club and NEO boards of directors unanimously approved the merger. All Friendship Club and NEO board members will join the new Bright Futures for Youth Board of Directors. Singer will serve as executive director and Ellis-Edwards and Skrukrud will continue with the organization.

“The merger is about bringing together our committed, mission-focused organizations and making them stronger,” Machen MacDonald, board president of The Friendship Club, said in the release. “We will leverage our resources to provide a continuum of services so young people get the help and resources they deserve.”

NEO Board President Marty Lombardi, who also serves on The Friendship Club Board, said in the release the addition of NEO coupled with The Friendship Club and SAFE will provide a “one-stop shop” for youth services.

“It takes kind and caring hearts moving in the same direction to make a community thrive,” Lombardi said. “The Friendship Club and NEO have a never-ending commitment to ensure that our children and young adults get the assistance they need.”

The Friendship Club, celebrating its 25th anniversary in July, has helped empower and educate more than 1,000 girls and young women in sixth through 12th grades who face many life challenges.

“Although much has changed since Mary Collier founded the organization in 1995, the goal of connecting girls with each other, mentors and role models, and putting them on a path to success, remains constant,” the release states.

“NEO strives to empower youth to make healthy and positive lifestyle choices. Founded in 2008, NEO serves youth ages 11 to 25 years old through its Youth Center, community events, school outreach programs and summer camps,” the release states. “Since opening the center in 2015, NEO has provided free after-school drop-in hours for more than 1,000 youth.”

Source: The Friendship Club and New Events and Opportunities


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