A small nonprofit in Tarrant County has a 50-year tradition of fighting hunger.
Families and seniors in 13 ZIP codes from the north side of Fort Worth throughout River Oaks and on into Saginaw rely on the Northside Inter-Community Agency to help break the cycle of poverty. The programs include emergency assistance, social work services, educational programs and needs such as food and clothing.
"We are a small organization but we do a lot for the community," said Betty Ortiz, Financial Manager and Volunteer Coordinator.
The latest news from around North Texas.
And, the community has needed even more help during the pandemic.
"These families, some are working; some have gotten laid off because of COVID. They come to us and they're in need," Ortiz said. "Some do work but the income just doesn't stretch far enough."
NICA now has more dollars to stretch thanks to a $20,000 Project Innovation grant from NBC 5 and Telemundo 39 powered by the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.
"This grant has made a great impact because we're able to do for so many more families than we ever thought," Ortiz said.
NICA has committed part of the funds to its Circle of Winners program. The program offers high school students the opportunity to become positive role models in the community and earn money for college while learning the importance of higher education in a positive and nurturing environment. The program is designed to promote higher education and provides mentoring and leadership opportunities to help at-risk youth ages 14 to 18. Focusing on building knowledge, skills, and opportunities, the Circle of Winners program breaks the cycle of poverty and paves the way to a better life.
And it's these teenagers who are now fighting hunger in their community.
"We've taken the mentors, and they've gone and bought groceries for the family of the children they're mentoring. This is a great impact because some of these families are really struggling," Ortiz said.
Each week two students in the Circle of Winners program volunteer to purchase groceries, package the items, and deliver the groceries to people in need within their community.
"They get to pick all the things a kid would enjoy. That's fun in itself, so it gives them a sense of giving back to their community," Ortiz said. "It's really great because you get to see the smiles on these families' faces; something they never thought they'd expect, they've received. We're so glad to be part of it, and the students are super excited."
NICA started the Circle of Winners program in 2004 and, so far:
- 100% of students have graduated from high school
- 88% received one or more college scholarships
- 91% of all students completed at least one year of college
- 74% of all students completed at least two years of college
- 32% have graduated from college
- 3% completed trade school
But at the heart of its work, NICA fights hunger by providing food to an average of 900 low-income families and seniors each month. NICA has studied the clients served through its food pantry and has found the typical food recipient has no source of food other than to receive food assistance from the agency.
"It's a stressful time for everyone," Ortiz said. "We received this grant from Project Innovation, and it was an amazing grant. It has helped so many families, and we are just so grateful."