Newswise — LAVALETTE, WV, December 16, 2021 – Green Bronx Machine Founder Stephen Ritz joined with Stepping Stones, Inc. and its Youth Transitions Project (YTP) leaders to mark the growing tiny-home village with two soon-to-be completed additional homes and the framing out of a third. Stepping Stones is the revolutionary foster care facility in the heart of Appalachia.
Longtime supporter and urban farmer Ritz also announced that Green Bronx Machine (GBM) will pay forward a generous $25,000 donation from its partner, Newman’s Own Foundation, to Stepping Stones to outfit all homes’ kitchens with appliances from local retailer Big Sandy Superstore. In addition, GBM has spearheaded a “Fill Them with Love” campaign, providing each tiny home with all the household supplies needed for to start a first home.
YTP is a public-private partnership focused on youth ages 16-21 transitioning from foster care or experiencing homelessness. The project’s centerpiece is a tiny-home village. Its goal is to support disconnected West Virginia youth as they transition into adulthood so they may reach their full potential and become productive, contributing citizens. When completed next summer, there will be eight tiny homes, a village school that provides high school equivalency and career and technical education classes, a building and construction certification program, a substance treatment program, and a commercial greenhouse that provides residents with healthy foods combined with employment, paid sustainable farming skills building, and employment and job coaching and placement.
“This holiday season, GBM is delighted to provide these young people the tools they need to eat and prepare healthy food for themselves rather than depend on cheap, fast, convenient food. Fostering good nutrition habits is key to Stepping Stones and YTP’s intentional, multi-dimensional program designed to help these youth as they successfully pave their pathway to adulthood and independent living,” said Ritz. “In this process, all of us – Stepping Stones, Newman’s Own, GBM and Big Sandy – want them to know they are loved, supported and valued.”
Ritz and GBM have been working with Stepping Stones since 2018 on its Growing Hope initiative – a commercial greenhouse with 20 sustainable gardens using Tower Gardens® aeroponic growing systems on property. Using GBM’s propriety curriculum, Stepping Stones youth are trained to manage the greenhouse, growing their own food and donating excess to local communities in need.
“Green Bronx Machine has been a catalyst in helping us to follow our passion and making dreams come true by pushing us to think outside of the box and literally feed our boys with hope,” said Susan Fry, executive director, Stepping Stones. “Stephen and Lizette Ritz are family to all of us and this amazing GBM donation, thanks to the generosity of Newman’s Own Foundation, is a blessing for our tiny home residents. Just as importantly, it shows our young people the power of partnership and working together to make a positive impact.”
Capping the festivities, Big Sandy Superstore’s delivery truck arrived at the tiny-home village and Fry, Ritz and others helped unload five refrigerators, five stoves, and five sets of stackable washing machines and dryers.
“Most of us don't crash land into Life. We benefit from the experience of life-long co-pilots, maintenance crews and navigators. Now imagine bringing your craft in successfully with neither solo flying experience or any of that support,” said Don Perdue, president of Stepping Stones, Inc.’s board of directors. “That is what aging out of foster care is like. The crash is almost inevitable."
All the tiny homes are the result of a large, caring community of supporters, funders and volunteers, including Pallottine Foundation of Huntington, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Milan Puskar Foundation, Newman's Own Foundation, Green Bronx Machine, Cabell Huntington Hospital, Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Sprouting Farms and Transition, West Virginia Schools of Diversion, Marshall University, Wayne High School CTE Engineering Class, Tolsia High School CTE Class, Truist Bank, Bernard McDonough Foundation, Braskem America Neal Plant and interior designers Pam and Tammy Watts, among others.
About Green Bronx Machine
Founded in 2011, Green Bronx Machine (GBM) is an impact-driven, for-purpose organization with 501(c)(3) status. GBM builds healthy, equitable and resilient communities through inspired education, local food systems, and 21st Century workforce development. Dedicated to cultivating minds and harvesting hope, its school-based model and propriety curriculum uses urban agriculture aligned to key school performance indicators, to grow healthy students and healthy schools. Simultaneously, GBM also transforms once fragmented and marginalized communities into neighborhoods that are inclusive and thriving. For more information, visit https://greenbronxmachine.org.
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About Stepping Stones, Inc.
Established in 1975, Stepping Stones, Inc. is a fully-licensed child welfare and behavioral health provider with over 46 years’ experience working with West Virginia’s troubled and troubling youth and their families. The therapeutic milieu is family-centered and youth-focused and provides youth with an opportunity to enhance cognitive competence, internalize coping skills and develop an “I Can” attitude. Through restructuring, reeducation and reintegration, Stepping Stones seeks to strengthen the youth’s relationship with family and community. The Program firmly believes that discovering and uncovering the connectedness of the youth and his family with the community is paramount in treatment delivery. For more information, visit https://steppingstonesinc.org.
About Newman’s Own Foundation
Newman’s Own Foundation is an independent, private foundation formed in 2005 by Paul Newman to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic work. Funded entirely through the profits and royalties of Newman’s Own products, the Foundation does not maintain an endowment, raise funds, or accept donations. The Foundation believes that each of us, through the power of philanthropy, has the potential to make a difference. Since 1982, when Paul Newman first declared, “Let’s give it all away,” more than $550 million has been donated to thousands of nonprofit organizations helping people in need around the world.