During a recent videoconference meeting, the Wayne County, NY Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. team resolved to do something big to motivate homebound families strained by COVID-19 restrictions. YAP is a nonprofit with programs in communities in 29 states that provide community/family-based alternatives to youth incarceration and out-of-home placements.
Wayne County YAP services also include a school partnership called, Peaceful Alternatives to Tough Situations (PATS), and the Disciplinary Reduction Offender Program (DROP), which reduces solitary confinement for incarcerated individuals and provides re-entry life skills.
As part of President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance, Assistant Director James Schuler leads initiatives that focus on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, YAP has been delivering video and teleservices and practicing social distancing when delivering food and cleaning supplies to families.
“We had been driving by youths’ homes to celebrate their birthdays,” said Wayne County YAP Director of Programs Mike Crespo. “Someone came up with the idea of doing a parade — going by to see all our families, something to lift everyone up.”
The team went into action with each staff person contributing ideas about ways to make it special.
“One of our Advocates printed off some positive uplifting messages. We had signs, balloons, noise makers and even wrote a message on the cars,” Mike said. “I told the police chief in town, ‘this is what’s going on.’ Everybody was just with it. They said ‘you guys are awesome. This is great.’”
Word of the parade traveled fast, among the young people and families YAP serves and many other Wayne County families.
By most measures, it was a small caravan – about a dozen cars driven by YAP staff members. However, on a YAP scale, which measures pivotal life moments, the outcome was considerable.
“The goal was for the families we work with to show them that we’re here for them daily — as a team — and that we will continue to support them through this pandemic. “We wanted the kids to see everybody.”
One by one, the parade floated along its planned route, honking horns, sounding the noise makers, and playing music. Children of all ages and adults gathered in windows and on porches smiling, waving, and cheering.
“It was cool,” Mike said. “It was a great day and the families loved it.”