A Busy Track Star

This is DaShawn.

You recently met DaShawn as we told you about when Frank (Juda’s husband) took him to visit colleges in North Georgia last month. DaShawn is entering his senior year at Osceola High School. He runs track, that was the focus of his college visits looking at schools where he could potentially get track scholarships.

But over the summer until school starts back, DaShawn needed to get a job. He was looking for a source of income, but also for something to keep him occupied and out of trouble. This week he started work… at two jobs! DaShawn will be working in the deli at Winn Dixie and in the shop at Hepler’s Auto Body.

DaShawn is super excited and ready to get started. DaShawn is showing himself to be a dedicated and committed young man to moving himself forward, bettering his life circumstances and equipping himself with the skills he needs to succeed.

DaShawn is also spending time this summer getting tutored. In order to put himself in the best position to receive the scholarships he hopes to get, he needs to ensure his grades are as good as they can be. This is yet another example of his willingness to do what he needs to do to propel himself forward.

Thank you for your continued support and partnership with Grace Landing. You assist us and help us to accomplish the calling God has given to us to serve homeless and foster youth in central Florida.

When Hard Work Pays Off

Image found at: http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/blackandwhite,pixelated/Recent

Image found at: http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/blackandwhite,pixelated/Recent

One of our homeless youth has been living with us since September of 2014. This young man has been working so hard to get himself a job. Last fall he hit the ground running and he started school at Valencia. He took a full load of classes in the fall and spring semesters. He continued to work hard at finding a job. After going to about 20 interviews, he was finally hired at Ross. He works the overnight shift and is still taking 16 hours of classes this summer at Valencia! He is determined and hardworking and does not give up when the road gets tough.

This youth comes from a very tough background. You may have noticed I haven’t used his name yet, that’s because he does not want his family to find him. He left his family due to their unhealthy and negative lifestyle. He has moved across the country and has begun to forge his own life.

Due to his desire to remain confidential and safe from his family we can’t celebrate his hard work and accomplishments and show his happy face. However, we wanted to celebrate his efforts and determination anonymously to be able demonstrate the kinds of skills and lessons he is adding to his life. This young man has flourished while living at Grace Landing and is setting himself apart as a leader of the other youth in our Independent Living Home.

Without the commitment and support of community partners like you, we wouldn’t be able to assist this youth and others like him to get on their feet and pull their lives together to learn the skills necessary to be independent. Thank you for investing in his life and the lives of other homeless and foster youth.

How can I help homeless youth?

Photo courtesy of: http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/serving-youth-economic-downturn/youth-homelessness-todays-tough-economy

Photo courtesy of: http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/serving-youth-economic-downturn/youth-homelessness-todays-tough-economy

Everyday we hear or see problems or issues others are facing. We can easily explain away our lack of involvement in the problem at hand. We can easily say, we are too far away to get involved. We can easily say, there is nothing we can do. We can easily say, we don’t know how to get involved and help.

These are all excuses, covering up for us when we don’t want to get involved. In reality, it is very easy for us to get involved in helping homeless youth. Especially, here in central Florida. At Grace Landing, we have multiple opportunities which would allow you to get involved in the life of our homeless (and foster youth). Here are a couple of ways you can get involved:

  1. Grocery Shopping – Our youth are on their own when it comes to grocery shopping. Most of our youth work so they have the funds to provide for themselves, but who doesn’t appreciate an unexpected gift of some groceries. Additionally, our youth could use some help in meal planning, budgeting to get the most out of their grocery money, and thinking through healthy eating (who knew Ramen noodles is NOT healthy eating?!?). This is a very simple, yet easy way to get involved.
  2. Tutoring – This summer, two-thirds of our youth are enrolled in classes at Valencia. If your first couple of years in college were anything like mine, you know our youth could use a little extra help in ensuring their school work is done on time and to the standards of the professor. One hour a week or every other week would go a long way to helping propel them forward.
  3. Job Searching Skills – Two-thirds of our youth currently have jobs, but one of the things we have noticed over the last year or so is that our youth have needed some assistance when looking for a job. One of our youth recently went to 20 interviews before being hired. This is good and bad. It is good because his resume and application were able to get him to an interview, but also bad because 19 employers didn’t see his potential. Taking a little time and investing in the life of our youth, can be helpful in developing the personal skills they need to get hired.
  4. Mentoring – One of the greatest needs of our youth is for a strong male role model in their life. Our youth haven’t had the strong brother or father figure in their life to help them as they transition into manhood. At Grace Landing, we believe it is critical to have a role model who can assist our youth in gaining a proper understanding of what it means to be a man. Concepts like responsibility, integrity, honesty and reliability. The impact made by a mentor, could be the most influential impact these youth experience.

As you can see, this problem isn’t far away. It isn’t complicated or difficult to get involved. All it takes is for us to love and care for these youth as though they were our own children.

Are you willing to get involved?

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

A Monumental Occassion!

In the midst of our Paddle Challenge, staff changes, new staff training and the day-in-day-out experience that is life at Grace Landing; we totally forgot to celebrate one of our young men! We posted a photo on our Facebook, but we wanted to take some time to recognize the hard work and effort of Angelo Armstrong. Angelo has been with us at Grace Landing for about a year. When he first came to us, he was in school at Harmony High School and he was riding a bike to school everyday and managing an overnight job at McDonald’s. Angelo worked very hard and eventually transferred to Gateway High School, for ease of class attendance. This was not an easy choice for him, but he made it in order to increase his chances for success and for completing high school.

The end of May and the beginning of June brought Angelo a birthday (he turned 19) and graduation from high school! We are so proud of Angelo and all his hard work to stay the course and finish high school. When he came to us, there were significant factors working against Angelo to reach this milestone. He was not deterred and rose to the occasion and overcame his obstacles.

Angelo has been accepted by Valencia and is awaiting orientation next week to register for classes. His educational plans include studies in business and health sciences. Angelo is also looking for a part-time job (so if you have an opening, or know someone who does… let us know!) and training for a marathon. Running is something Angelo uses to clear his mind and help him to keep on track (no pun intended) in life.

We are thankful for successes like this and want to celebrate Angelo and his hard work. Join with us in celebrating his success!

angelo graduates

New Staff Training


Last week we completed our first ever week of new staff training! If you are following what is going on around Grace Landing, then you know we are opening a licensed Group Home for young men ages 15-18 in foster care and in need of a home; you know we brought a new intern on for the summer; and we hired the Family Teaching Couple who will be living in the group home. With all the new adjustments and changes around Grace Landing, we held a week long training for all of our staff to train ourselves on the procedures, methods and skills we want to employ in our group home as well as our independent living home. We have a lot of fun as we discussed some core concepts and ideas essential to the work we do daily at Grace Landing. We discussed Abraham Maslow and his theory on human needs. We Spent time walking through Kubler-Ross’ cycle of grief and learned about Sutherland-Fox’s thoughts on grieving also. We Discussed Eric Erikson’s model of child development. Juda spent three days training us in Trust Based Relational Intervention or TBRI. We discussed the cycle need and attachment and gained a greater understanding of the situations and circumstance our young men come from. We finished up the week by ensuring we are better informed about trauma and how it continually impacts foster youth. All in all, it was great week where we learned a lot and began to grow closer as a staff team and deepened the relationships we will build upon to complete the work God has called us to.

Staff Transitions

This summer brings with it some significant changes in our staff at Grace Landing.

David O’Malley joins us as an intern working with our Independent Living program. David is a student at Johnson University who will graduate in December. David will be with Grace Landing until February, when he is getting married.

KirksChad & Morgan join our team as our Family Teaching Couple (what we are calling our Group Home houseparents). They bring with them their three year old daughter and almost five years of experience as houseparents. Chad & Morgan aren’t approaching this position as just another job, they feel called by God to serve as houseparents to foster youth.

While we are happy and excited about the new additions to our staff, we are saddened by the departure of Matthew Marion who has been a stable face and constant servant here at Grace Landing for almost three years. Due to a shift in our focus and future plans, we have made a decision to restructure our staff and Matt is no longer going to be with us. Matt has expressed a desire to pursue a position in full time youth ministry. We pray for Matt to be used by God in this next phase of his life, but if we are honest with ourselves we will miss him greatly.


Eli Westfall will be taking the reigns of Independent Living Coordinator along with his responsibilities managing the Group Home. We are restructured his role a little and given him the job title of Program Director as he will be directing or managing the day in and day out functions of both the Independent Living and Group Home programs.

College Visit Road Trip!


DeShawn, one of our Independent Living Youth, runs track for Osceola High School and is being scouted by several colleges. Berry College in Georgia is beginning to build a track team and they are interested in having DeShawn join their team as one of the first track athletes in the school’s history. This is potentially a wonderful opportunity for DeShawn, because he would be able to assist the team in developing their track program and have a chance to show them his talent and really shine on the team.

Frank (Juda’s husband) took DeShawn to north Georgia this week to visit Berry College. While they were on the trip, they were able to make a connection and visit Shorter University, where they found to coach who was very interested and willing to speak to DeShawn from the moment he met him.

DeShawn came home from this trip with a renewed excitement to finish his senior year strongly so he is able to attend one of these colleges on a track scholarship.

If you see DeShawn congratulate him and wish him luck!


And the winner is…

This year we had ten teams sign up for the paddle challenge. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a few teams weren’t ultimately able to participate. Despite those hang ups, we had a successful paddle challenge and a fantastic time. We made some adjustments from last year and overall things went much more smoothly. A huge thank you to all our volunteers who made the paddle challenge possible and successful.
Here are the 2015 standings:

1st place – Real Life Christian Church

2nd – Celebration Community Church

Division I – Companies – Gatorland

Division II- churches – Real Life

Spirit Award – Real Life

This year we raised $41,455. Additionally, we raised $660 from our silent auction to provide needed items for our group home we are opening this summer.


Found at: http://www.jamesjroberts.com/normalcy.html

Grace Landing still needs your help to wrap up our group home!

We need a flat screen television for the foster youth in the group home.

We need a grill for the group home, so our Family Teaching Couple (house parents) are able to utilize it for meal preparation and fun times with the foster youth.

I know what you are thinking, do they really need a flat screen and a grill? The answer is yes. For one simple reason.

Normalcy. Normalcy is a fancy-sounding word to mean we want to foster youth to experience a normal teenage life as much as is possible while at Grace Landing. We want to offer them the same opportunities other youth not in foster care have.

We have found, it is the little things like this which allow the foster youth to feel like they belong in a family and they are living a normal teenage life. We have a PlayStation 3 that was donated to us we plan to use the TV for, as well as a Surround Sound System which was donated to us. Our Family Teaching Couple (FTC or house parents) come to us with an extensive history of grilling food and would like to build on that experience to make our foster youth feel at home.

If you are able to provide these items, please contact Juda (judaa@gracelanding.com) or Eli (eliw@gracelanding.com).

The Finish Line

In January of 2014, Eli Westfall (one of our staff) ran his first marathon. As the miles wore on he hit ‘the wall’ and felt like he wanted to give up and quit. Like most of us, as we near the finish line of any daunting task we feel as though we have given every thing we have and feel like our reserves are gone. As Eli rounded the last turn of the race, bringing the finish line into sight he was invigorated with a renewed sense of energy and purpose and found he actually did have the strength and reserves to finish the last few miles to finish the race.

 At Grace Landing, we have rounded the final turn and we have the finish line in sight and we have our group home almost complete. There are a few loose ends as far as work goes to wrap up. We have one last inspection to be completed. We have turned in all necessary paperwork for our application with the Department of Children and Families.

 The end is in sight.

 As we take a moment to realize how close to be finished, we realize two things: we couldn’t do it without all of our community partners; and we still have some big needs left! We have almost all the work completed, but we still need many items to furnish the home and provide a safe, stable and loving environment for the young foster boys who will live there. Please take a moment to check out this list of some of the big ticket items we still need or check out our gift registry at either Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond for some the smaller, yet still critical items we need (to find the registry search first name Grace, last name Landing at either store).

 We are so thankful for everyone who has helped us get our group home up and running. God has used many servants to accomplish his work at Grace Landing over the last couple of months. We couldn’t have completed this work without the help of God’s servant like you. Thank you so much!!

 Enjoy these photos of the completed work in each home!