Family Connection staying busy with programs

By KAYLA HURLEY

News Intern

On Wednesday, Decatur County Family Connection held their collaborative meeting to discuss updates on several community projects and programs.

Family Connection is an organization in Decatur County that heads programs such as CATS for Youth and Volunteers in Tax Assistance (VITA), a program that provides free tax preparation and e-file to individuals and families with low to moderate incomes.

Attending the meeting were representatives of several local organizations such as the Department of Juvenile Justice, Decatur County Board of Health, Samaritan Counseling Center and Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library.

During the meeting, Allison Harrell, the chairman of the Family Connection board of directors, discussed advancements in the Backpack Program. This program fills backpacks with food every Tuesday, to send home with children for families with low income. Recently the program was able to fill 173 backpacks for families in Decatur County.

Harrell also gave an update on several classes taught through Family Connection. She said one of the classes that has gotten a positive response is the relationship class, an abstinence-based program that focuses on different types of relationships.

“We want to surround a group of kids with services they can use,” Harrell said.

The VITA program also showed success in 2011. The program was able to assist almost 400 families with income tax returns and plans on partnering with accounting students at Bainbridge College for the upcoming year.

Debbie McIntyre provided an update from Bridges Out of Poverty, a program that works with the local community. In the near future, the program hopes to start adult reading classes at Friendship House in Bainbridge.

The Executive Director of Spring Creek Health Cooperative, Shelia Freeman, was also present to provide information on a new facility that is preparing to come to Bainbridge this year.

The Health Cooperative provides prescription assistance to citizens of Decatur County alongside other nearby counties. The program was able to assist in filling over 22,000 prescriptions in 2011, saving families in surrounding areas close to $4.4 million in prescriptions.

Charlotte Howard, Youth Program Director for Family Connections, gave an update on the Decatur County 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Under the leadership of Jimmy Harris, additional academic and enrichment classes are provided to more than 450 students weekly. The Decatur County School System successfully implements two grants for the program.

Ronnie Burke, Family Connection coordinator, strives to get the community involved in volunteer projects through these local programs.

“At Family Connection, we see the need and we help,” Burke said.

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