Eight Waves is making a splash in West Orange County with its commitment to underserved communities. The Winter Garden nonprofit organization offers healthy support systems to children and families — and this includes reading intervention, reading buddies, one-on-one tutoring and getting more books into the hands of babies.
“It is essential to get books into kids’ hands because reading can help a child develop their language and communication skills as well as social skills,” said Kelly Carr, director of operations and programs for Eight Waves. “Truly, reading is a basic building block of learning, and studies have shown that having books in the home can increase a student’s language development and academic success.”
This year, Eight Waves is partnering with Observer Media Group’s Reading Reindeer literacy campaign, which has provided new books to underserved children enrolled in local programs for 25 years.
“We love the Reading Reindeer program because it brings books to children who might not have books in their homes,” Carr said. “Reading is one of the most important skills a child can learn, so it is very important for children of all ages to have access to books at home.”
Fifty-six children are enrolled in Eight Waves’ free after-school program, which focuses on reading intervention and mentorship.
“We build relationships by establishing trust through our eight initiatives to empower them to create lasting change in their own lives and communities,” Carr said.
Eight Waves was founded by Sara Meyer after she saw a need for support and resources for young people living in poverty in Central Florida.
During her time with the children, Meyer said, she noticed the students struggling with reading, lacking confidence and looking for direction.
After a few months of research, dedication and building trust within under-resourced communities, Meyer developed eight initiatives to break generational poverty: reading intervention; mentorship; birthday parties; single mom program; life experiences; family stability; books for babies; and hygiene help.
She connected with the West Orange Dream Center, on East Plant Street in Winter Garden, and now provides support.
In 2021, the Eight Waves curriculum focused on reading skills, helping children from ages 2 to 18 stay on track developmentally and increase their world through reliance and an ability to confidently read.
Meyer said reading is the most popular initiative and the most needed. The partnership with Reading Reindeer will further boost Eight Waves’ literacy campaign.
“This program helps support the community and Eight Waves by providing books to children and families that may not be able to afford them, and it also encourages children to read,” Carr said. “Children who struggle with reading can also have feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. By providing these books, it helps to support healthy childhood development.”
TAKE A HOLIDAY HOME TOUR
Eight Waves is hosting a Holiday Tour of Homes Dec. 17, presented by Meritage Homes and The Keewin Real Property Company. This new holiday experience will take place in Oakland and Winter Garden, where participants will experience a unique evening of touring four estate homes, all decked out in holiday finery. The event includes live music, a food tour that begins with appetizers and ends with decadent desserts.
All monies raised from this event will be donated to the Eight Waves mission of building relationships and trust for children and families through eight initiatives to empower lasting change in their lives.
Tickets include a progressive dinner, drinks, desserts and transportation from home to home. Participants can also upgrade their tickets with a VIP horse-drawn carriage ride to see the holiday lights sponsored by Bill and Cindy Perry.
Tickets are limited and are available for four different times: 5, 5:45, 6:30 and 7:15 p.m.
Food and beverage sponsors include Crooked Can, Market to Table, Miller’s Ale House, The Southern on 8th, Coastal Pacific Wine & Spirits, Cheers Liquor Store, Worthy Cakes and Nosh Popcorn. Other sponsors are Orlando Health, Seacoast Bank, Carr’s Flooring America, HomeRun Pest Control, Schmid Construction, Foshee Construction, Clancy & Theys Construction, We Are Winter Garden, City of Winter Garden, One Winter Garden, Farm Nine, The Bacha Family, J & J Building, Hope Church and Imagine that Promo.
For information, visit eightwaves.org/holiday-tour-of-homes or email [email protected].
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.