Sunday Friends is a non-profit organization in San José, California, that provides multiple activities for families who are in need of financial support. Given the particular location of the program, most families are Latino and bilingual. Participants and program volunteers form a community at an elementary school on a couple of scheduled Sundays each month. When family members participate in activities designed to educate, improve skills, and to give back to the larger community, they earn tickets that they can redeem for items that they need and want from the Sunday Friends store. Activities include healthy cooking projects, “Thank You Letter” writing, English-as-a-Second-Language programs, crafts, and education in nutrition and financial literacy. The program’s central focus is to empower families to break out of poverty. A specific guiding principal is the developmental assets approach promoted by the Search Institute in Minneapolis (http://www.search-institute.org/). This approach encourages individuals and organizations to work together toward a common goal of supporting the healthy development of all children and youth. Healthy development is conceptualized as consisting of the development of external assets (i.e., support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive activities) and internal assets (i.e., commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity). The 2009 evaluation’s primary focus was on whether Sunday Friends was succeeding at fostering developmental assets for children. Other relevant indicators of success were perceptions of program effectiveness, regard for program activities, and nutrition and healthy eating habits. Data were gathered from family members (adults and minors) during program activities using written surveys administered by volunteers to the research team (most of whom were bilingual). The families were recruited in person by program staff onsite. The questionnaires were written in English and Spanish (with the choice made by respondents). Sunday Friends volunteers were recruited to the study via email by Sunday Friends staff. They completed questionnaires through an online survey platform. In all, 74 parents or guardians, 67 children or youth, and 45 volunteers participated in the data collection. Across the three sets of surveys (parents or guardians, children or youth, and volunteers), there are fairly consistent results. The families and volunteers in the Sunday Friends program believe that Sunday Friends is effectively engaging them and meeting its goals. Overall, children and youth report positive experiences at Sunday Friends. On every dimension of psychological well-being, connectedness with others, and self-efficacy, the answers provided by children and youth indicate that Sunday Friends is promoting developmental assets. In addition, parents and guardians report that Sunday Friends has positive influences on their lives. The majority of measures, whether questions about self-efficacy, the effect of Sunday Friends on their children, or improved nutrition for their family, indicate that Sunday Friends is meeting its goals. Finally, volunteers agree that the program makes an important contribution to the lives of both children and adults. They also feel that Sunday Friends enhances their awareness of the community and contributes to making their personal lives more meaningful. The survey results presented here should be interpreted with caution because all persons surveyed were continuing participants in the program, and the cross-sectional data could not detect changes over time. Despite this caution, each group’s data and triangulation across family and volunteer surveys reveal that milestones are accomplished at Sunday Friends. It is safe to conclude that Sunday Friends’ community-based approach to empowering parents and youths is achieving its goals.
James D. Lee, Yoko Baba, Claudio V. Sanchez, Rebecca Wang, and Chelsey White. "Sunday Friends: The Working Alternative to Charity" Faculty Publications (2009): 1-54.