Refresh a local program

By AUBRIE GEORGE

A Moorestown non-profit that has its sights set on expansion needs votes from local residents to receive a grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project.

As a social program for developmentally delayed teens and young adults, Kate’s Place offers structured activities, social outings and special events to those who can’t live on their own but have the need to socialize and make friends.

The program began at Kingsway Learning Center three years ago, but now operates out of the First United Methodist Church in Moorestown in a space the church has donated to the organization.

There, special needs teens and young adults visit three times a week for a few hours of physical activities and programs such as yoga, karate and crafts. In addition to a friendly environment in which they can socialize and make friends, the program also offers healthy snacks and occasional community outings.

The program’s founder and executive director, Joanne McNamee, said those who come to Kate’s Place just want the same opportunities as everyone else.

“Most are not able to drive to a friend’s house or hang out at the local mall,” she said. “But at Kate’s Place they get to form their life-long friendships, have physical activity, while learning responsibilities and compassion for others.”

The group has recently begun a community outreach effort — making lap blankets for the elderly, packing lunches for the homeless, setting up for dinners at the church, and stuffing envelopes for people who need an extra hand. McNamee said she’d like to expand on that.

Kate’s Place has been selected to participate in the Pepsi Refresh Project, which is giving away $1.3 million in grants each month to people, businesses, and non-profits who present ideas that will have a positive impact. Voters decide which projects make it to the top before the program gives out grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. A grant for Kate’s Place would allow the organization to establish a community-based work program for individuals who are finished their special needs education at the age of 21.

This expansion would allow Kate’s Place members to spend days working on community projects, thus allowing them to feel as though they have job responsibilities, McNamee said. The opportunity would allow them to contribute positively to their community, while keeping in touch with friends they’ve made through Kate’s Place. In addition to expanding its programs, McNamee said the organization is looking for a larger, permanent facility to house all of its operations. If awarded the grant, Kate’s Place would be able to fund administrative and insurance costs, supplies to begin community projects, and contribution to First United Methodist Church, as well as compensation to program and activity instructors.

Residents can help Kate’s Place realize their expansion goals by voting to move them up in the ranks. To vote for Kate’s Place in the Pepsi Refresh contest, visit www.refresheverything.com/helpkatesplace.