It isn’t every day that you read a success story quite like Jannean and Tara Dixon’s, founders of the nonprofit organization Redstick C.A.R.E.S., which was formed to provide our community with better access to mental, behavioral, and social health through human connection.
Their story begins in the year 2000 when the soon-to-be best friends (and later sisters-in-law) were in school to become special education teachers who, after a decade of teaching, branched out to advocate for families of special needs children. After Tara completed her Master’s to become a mental health professional, she spent time in several hospitals and treatment centers and was appalled by the lack of access to mental health care for those using Medicaid.
As the duo inspected the cracks in the system, they became very aware of just how many of their clients needed resources beyond what can be provided by their traditional businesses. This meant one thing: they needed to start a nonprofit and like most awesome ideas, Redstick C.A.R.E.S. was mapped out in a notebook while the two were on their way to Vermont for vacation. After hammering out the basics, growth came quickly.
“We became a 501(c)(3) on September 15, 2022 and moved into our building on October 1. We are constantly brainstorming and problem-solving, texting each other ideas at all hours of day and night. We have accomplished so much in the less than six months we’ve been in existence, but have so much more to do to support our community!” shares Jannean.
Thanks to their dedication, the organization proudly offers Baton Rouge counseling, advocacy, resources, education, and support services all free of charge. They provide support for a broad audience, including people ages 6 and up with special needs, LGBTQIA+ members, military personnel, women, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
As for community outreach, Redstick C.A.R.E.S. has been incredibly busy putting together plenty of events and programs. One such event is their monthly Redstick Makers MarketS, a fundraising event that supports the non-profit’s programs. The capital “S” is intentional, meant to signify their commitment to makers with special needs or those who are the primary caretakers of special needs children. In the same vein, last month they kicked off their first annual Redstick Cares Crawfish Cookoff, a fundraiser for the nonprofit where several teams cooked delicious crawfish for taste testing.
When it comes to implementing and expanding programs, employees and students are where the focus is at. Redstick C.A.R.E.S. recently started offering corporate counseling as a way of supporting businesses and their employees, and they are pleased to announce that it has been “wonderfully successful.” According to Tara, this program is being offered because traditionally, employees would have to take time out of their day to drive to a counseling office, sit in an hour-long counseling session, then drive back. Now, a counselor can set up inside a corporate office, which “increases the access to mental health and increases the probability of individuals taking advantage of these services.”
Additionally, they plan to expand and develop programs that address education. Since tutoring tends to be expensive and therefore not easily accessible to all, the nonprofit plans to combine tutoring and well-deserved fun by providing a reading program where they teach math, writing, and study skills while giving kids time to have fun and be kids.
In the future, they plan to create more exciting programs that will help support our community members, with their next big initiative being the AgriCares program, which will spur the building of a hydroponic garden and provide a home for chickens and dwarf goats.
Another in-the-works project is the Redstick Cares TeamProgram meant to support young adults with special needs who have completed high school but are not yet ready to pursue post-secondary education or enter the workforce. The program would provide goal-oriented individualized support, training days, and detailed task analysis that would require oral cues, visual, or other support to complete tasks. Some options for the skill tracks would include culinary training, visual arts, graphic design, development as young professionals, independent living skills, custodial skills, and the development of self-awareness.
At the end of the day, Jannean and Tara want to offer Baton Rouge a place where everyone belongs and is supported.
“The public is always welcome at Redstick! We encourage everyone to stop by, take a tour, and share their talents,” offers Tara. “We hold a plate lunch every month that helps support our Cares Team. Not only does the money raised help fund the program, but orders help our Cares Team implement the culinary skills they are learning in the Redstick Cooks Program. Every order is handled by the Team from logging orders to fulfilling orders to mapping deliveries.”
As always, your feedback and ideas are what make organizations like Redstick C.A.R.E.S. able to provide more accessible resources and make the sweeping changes we need in our community.
“If you or someone you know needs support, please check out our program offerings! We have a diverse array of support groups, programs, and activities for people ages 5 and older. If you don’t see what you need, please let us know,” implores Jannean. “We pride ourselves on being responsive to the needs of our community. Every single one of our programs was born from someone in the community identifying a need and asking if we could fill it. We have lots of other nonprofits who we work with, so if we can’t fill the need, we likely know another organization that can!”
If you would like to learn more about their free programs, make a tax-deductible donation, or plan to attend their next upcoming event, visit redstickcares.org.