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Busy year ahead for Family Connection

Published 9:19am Tuesday, August 13, 2013

As a new school year begins, so do the programs of the Decatur County Family Connection pick up speed.

Family Connection is a non-profit organization, funded by the community, working together to improve the lives of children of all ages and their families.

Ronnie Burke, local director of Family Connection, has outlined a program of services for the current school year.

A new initiative is called “Darkness to Light,” a national sexual abuse awareness program. Half-day test workshops were conducted in June and July for representatives from various agencies. The goal is to help those dealing with youth recognize and respond to signs of sexual abuse. Burke said this is a growing problem, due in part to widespread abuse of Internet sites. Burke said victims of sexual abuse are more prone to problems with drug and alcohol addiction, failing grades and other psychological and criminal behaviors. The program, taught by Elizabeth Whaley, will be made available to teachers and guidance counselers in the schools this year. Whaley will also continue to teach the Relationship Abstinence program, formerly taught at the Alternative School. Burke said they recognized this program should be aimed at younger youth and the class has been moved to serve select students at Hutto Middle School.

Among other services being continued are the successful Back Pack program. Burke says that program has been in place at least five years, and has provided food to help carry deserving students over weekends and holidays when school is not in session. He wants to assure the public that the program will continue, even though Allison Harrell, previous board chair and hard-working volunteer who initiated and oversaw the program is no longer here.

He said the costs of operating the Back Program run between $12,000 and $13,000 per year, and are financed completely by local donations, as well as proceeds from the annual Rodeo.

Others overseen by Family Connection that will continue to serve those in need are the Food Bank and Clothes Closet, as well as the Southwest Georgia Farm Credit sponsored annual coat and cold weather gear drive.

CATS for Youth, an anti-drug and alcohol leadership program taught by Charlotte Howard will also be continued. Usually ten students are selected to attend a summer leadership training session at Emory University.

Teen Maze, a simulated program that allows students to see the consequences of certain life choices, will return later in the fall, and plans are already being made for the annual Rodeo that will take place in March at the Commodore Industrial Park.

FC also provides scholarships for GED students to take the GED test, and partners with the Decatur County Schools System on 21st Century School grant activities.

Burke, who has overseen Family Connection for the past three years, is the sole employee and is very appreciative of the response from the community agencies and individuals who volunteer and make the programs go. An oversight board of twelve members is chaired this year by Scott Ewing. Burke said new volunteers are always welcome to attend the collaborative monthly meetings, held the second Wednesday of the month at the Kirbo Center.

Burke’s office is housed at Bainbridge State College, which is also the fiscal agent. He can be contacted by calling 229-309-9032, or by email ronnie.burke@bainbridge.edu.

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