Commitment to Kids and Families Warm the Winter Months in Region 2

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The Collaboratives in Region 2 have been busy meeting the educational, physical, and social needs of their youngest community members. Here are some highlights of their work this winter.

Banks County Family Connection

Banks County Family Connection is working alongside the Banks County School System counselors to build a mentor program called Positive Adults Winning Students (PAWS). Tressa Dodd, a middle-school counselor, and Carol Williams, Collaborative director, visited more than 30 businesses to make owners and employees aware of the massive needs of the students in all four of the Banks County Schools.

“The efforts put into the program have not gone unnoticed,” said Williams. “PAWS numbers have greatly increased from three to 32 mentors. With continued efforts of both the school system and Family Connection, the potential growth of the program is endless.”

The Collaborative also held its annual Career Day on March 31 at the Banks County Middle School, and attracted 42 presenters from a broad range of careers. “Our goal is to make all middle-school students aware of the mass opportunities available to them as they begin to choose the paths they wish to take as they move into high school,” said Williams.

“Banks County Career Day makes students aware of the mass opportunities available to them as they transition into high school, ensuring that students are aware that they can do whatever they want to do,” said Williams. “If they want to be a princess, they can work at Disney. Having goals and getting an education helps you become the person you want to be. Any Goal Is Within Reach.”

Habersham Family Connection

Habersham Family Connection provided books to Ms. Debbie’s and Ms. Renae’s Head Start Class in March as part of the countywide initiative, One Book Habersham—Together We Read. Each student received a copy of the book One Cool Friend to read and share with others, and Toni Buzzeo, the author, attended a special community reception at Piedmont College in April.

Habersham Family Connection also presented Poverty 101 training to Collaborative members in January. Toni Brown of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership Community Support Team facilitated the training, which explained the hidden class rules that affect families in poverty. More than 30 partners attended, including representatives from the Department of Juvenile Justice, DFCS, court system, school system, nonprofits, and other family-service providers.

Lumpkin Family Connection

Lumpkin County Family Connection has two goals for every child in the county

  1. that they will be free of abuse and neglect, and
  2. that they will have an equal opportunity to succeed in school.

Several years ago, cafeteria workers and counselors approached Lumpkin Family Connection Executive Director Brigette Barker about concerns they had for children in their schools going hungry.

“They had seen children asking others for fruit or taking it out of the trash to save for later, because they didn’t know where their next meal would come from,” said Barker. “I discovered, after researching childhood hunger, that one in four children face food insecurity. I also learned that barriers like lack of transportation, disabilities, and working outside the county prevented many of our families from receiving food at the local pantry.”

Over time with the help of partner agencies, the Collaborative developed its Backpack Buddies Program out of an old middle school kitchen to help confront the childhood hunger issue head on.

“Children who are hungry can’t focus on their school work,” said Barker. “And parents working or unable to utilize resources should not have to face the risk of neglecting their children. By engaging volunteers, partner agencies, and donors we now provide weekend meals and snacks to more than 100 children. Some of the volunteers who help pack and deliver the food to children are students from the Tri Beta Honor Society at the University of North Georgia. They also coordinated a food drive and organized a comedy show fundraiser with the Bert Show this year to help support our Backpack Buddies Program.”

According to Barker, the program continues to serve more than 100 children each week in Lumpkin County with the help of volunteers and partner agencies throughout the community.

“Congratulations to all our Kids First Award recipients for 2017 and thank you all for your hard work to help make Lumpkin County a better place for children and families,” said Barker. “And a huge thank you to all the participating restaurants, sponsors, and volunteers for making A Taste of the Mountain 2017 one of our most successful years yet. Congratulations to all of our award winners, especially to La Hacienda of Dawsonville for receiving the Silver Spoon Award.”

For information on how you can get involved, contact Brigette Barker at or at 706-864-6189.

Union County Family Connection

Union County Family Connection had an opportunity, when the 2016-17 school year started, to explore a new way to meet students’ and families’ needs in the community. The idea, called Purposity, is grounded in the belief that humanity finds purpose through generosity.

Collaborative coordinator Katy Jones sat down with a member of Purposity to learn about the organization’s mission to connect organizations, communities, and individuals in a meaningful way—with a common purpose—to lift up friends and neighbors in need.

“The idea is simple and appealing, because the bottom line is being able to help families get basic items they need and cannot afford” said Jones. ”The Purposity Team explained that they would vet people’s needs through social workers, agencies, and our Collaborative. We would help recruit people in the community to purchase items and have them shipped directly to our offices. We also would accept referrals from the school system—as we have always done—and then submit the needs to the Purposity program. It sounded like a win-win situation.”

After getting approval from the school Board, the Collaborative launched Purposity in January. Since then, they have met 32 needs, including several pairs of shoes, shirts, sheets, hygiene products, and items for Comfort Kits to help students reduce stress and anxiety.

“Union County never fails to amaze me with its generosity,” said Walker Slaton, a writer with the Purposity Team. “We can’t wait to see what needs they can meet next.”

White County Family Connection

White County Family Connection held its eighth annual Butterfly Kisses Boutique in March and, according to coordinator Judi Lawson, it was a great success.

“Butterfly Kisses Boutique is a free Prom dress/suit give away for any high school student who cannot afford to buy one,” said Lawson. “We take donations throughout the year of any size formal wear for girls or guys. We also have shoes and jewelry for the students to choose from. On the day of the prom, local hairdressers and make-up artists come in and do the girl’s hair, make-up and nails at no cost to the students, and Cleveland Florist donates corsages to wear on Prom night.”

Lawson said they try to recreate the boutique experience for the students who come in to try on dresses or suits with volunteers who assist them with their shopping.

“This year we dressed 58 students, which included girls going to the JROTC Officers Ball, and 12 girls took advantage of our beauty make-overs,” said Lawson. “We were blessed this year with someone who donated the services of a limo for eight of our students. All the young ladies and gentlemen looked amazing and had a great time.”