SMART Family Literacy Inc. and the Barbour’s Chapel Community Development Corp., have teamed up to offer educational programming for families in Galveston County, particularly residents of the new Blue Jay Drive neighborhood, in Texas City.

The two local nonprofits will be offering “parties” for families with young children ages 6 months to 6-years-old that include free books, as well as hands-on science and art activities. Financial literacy and health and nutrition classes for all ages will be available, and there even will be vegetable garden classes to help residents in the Blue Jay Drive neighborhood grow their own food items.

Elizabeth Turner, founder and executive director of SMART Family Literacy Inc., has a passion for helping kids and families. Turner believes children’s books are power tools for building healthy young minds; and with that knowledge of books and vegetable gardens, it can help to improve kids’ education and health in a positive and fun way.

“SMART Family Literacy is in its 13th year of literacy outreach and vegetable education,” Turner said. “Last year, we gave more than 16,000 children’s books in the Galveston County area. People like our SMART Family Parties, because they have fun while learning practical things and getting to know each other, too. Usually we work with school gardens to teach families to grow their own food, but we’re excited about the Blue Jay Drive and Barbour’s Chapel collaboration, partly because it’s a new approach.”

That new approach, designed by developers, DSW Homes, includes edible landscaping such as citrus fruit trees and garden frames, instead of the usual ornamentals that you may find in housing developments or subdivisions.

Every one of the 26 homes has a garden frame, so the collaboration between SMART Family Literacy Inc. and Barbour’s can help families grow some of their own fresh produce in their own backyards.

“The Oaks at Blue Jay and SMART Family Literacy Inc. are a perfect fit,” said Steve Mataro, president-elect 2018 for SMART Literacy and partner with DSW Homes. “DSW built The Oaks with the goal of helping to improve the quality of life for families. SMART Literacy is the best partner to have in helping to make The Oaks everything we know it can be.”

This innovative program, falls under the umbrella of the Barbour’s Chapel Community Development Corp., under the leadership of Dotti Jones, who is the executive director of the program at the church.

The church is hoping that the collaboration continues its mission of being a place “where lives are changed.”

“We are continuously seeking ways to fulfill our mission of ‘transforming inspiration into good works,’” Jones said. “The church is committed to serving the community which falls within the shadow of its walls, not just its immediate membership. In addition, it strives to respond to the needs of the whole person wherever possible, in addition to one’s spiritual needs. We will continue this event for as long as the community shows an interest by their attendance. We also are continually seeking opportunities to expand the positive impact on the communities we serve and look forward to more collaborative efforts with others in Galveston County.”

Along with offering ongoing tutoring and STEM programs, Barbour’s is hoping that the project will be an exportable model for other educational projects in similar neighborhoods, not only in Galveston County, but across the country as well.

The next classes, which are open to the public, are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 10 and April 24 at the church, 7420 FM 1765, in Texas City.

“We want all the young families in the area to join us so they can build their child’s home library with the children’s books we give away — and they can plant a seed to take home too,” Turner said. “We also will be looking for volunteers to help with neighborhood weeding and cleanup days in the summer. Stay tuned!”

For more information about the program or how to volunteer, visit www.SMARTFamilyLiteracy.org.

Contact Community News Editor Angela Wilson, angela.wilson@galvnews.com or 409-683-5239.

Angela Wilson is the community news editor for The Daily News.

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