Burke speaks about Family Connection at Kiwanis Club

Published 7:20 pm Friday, August 8, 2014

Decatur County Family Connection Coordinator Ronnie Burke was the guest speaker a Thursday’s Kiwanis Club meeting, where he discussed the purpose of the organization and the many fundraisers and projects they have throughout the year.

Family Connection began in Georgia more than 20 years ago as a way for local agencies and councils to meet and collaborate on ways to make their communities better, Burke said. Today, Family Connection is located in all 159 counties in Georgia and is the largest statewide network of its kind in the nation.

Each collaborative organization brings together—at the same table—the social worker, the nurse, the sheriff, the teacher, the minister, the businessperson, the public servant, and parents, then let them figure out the best way to help their kids thrive.

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“The current things we have, and the most heartfelt thing we do, is the Backpack Buddies program,” Burke said. “We are doing over 200 children now. We have a group that puts food in bags that get sent out every week during the school year, and that food gets put in kids’ backpacks during the school year and they take it home.”

The idea behind the program is to feed families who are experiencing difficult times. Burke said families couldn’t volunteer for the program and have to be referred to by a teacher or other community leader.

“That program costs us anywhere from $10,000 to $13,000 a year,” Burke said. “So that’s a pretty substantial program.”

It doesn’t go without help though. Burke said United Way of Bainbridge and churches donate money to help feed needy families.

The other major program Family Connection runs is Darkness to Light, a sexual abuse prevention course run through the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Burke said it was a powerful two and a half hour training program that deals with the explosion of sexual abuse in our society.

“It has a ripple effect on people’s lives with drug abuse, suicide and homicidal behavior,” Burke said.

Other programs run through Family Connection are abstinence classes for teens, after school counseling and computer classes for kid and parents and many more.

Bainbridge Family Connection is a major sponsor for Saturday’s Smoke Under the Oaks barbecue festival at Bainbridge Country Club.

“Rob McRae and the Smoke Under the Oaks people at the Country Club said they hoped to have a little extra money for a charity and they would like to spend some money for Family Connection,” Burke said.

The Bainbridge Kiwanis Club meets every Thursday at noon at Dwalla’s.