Crawford County Family Connection Aims to Keep Households Healthy This School Year

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During one of Crawford County Family Connection’s meetings last winter, Crawford County Schools Assistant Superintendent Christopher Ridley, Ed.D., announced that the high school was transitioning to remote learning from Dec. 10 through Jan. 6 due to COVID-19 cases. This set off warning bells for the Collaborative’s executive director, Tawanna Harris-Woodson, Ed.D.

“We’re in a small, rural county, so the majority of the time we know that students in one school have siblings in others—so it was just a matter of time before the other schools closed,” said Harris-Woodson. By January, the preschool, elementary, and middle schools shifted to virtual learning for two weeks due to COVID-19 exposure.

“During that meeting, I suggested trying to help with preventing the spread of not just COVID-19 but any airborne illnesses that can be passed around—and not just for the students in our schools, but also for the kids at home and the parents and grandparents raising them,” said Harris-Woodson.

The Council on Alcohol and Drugs, CareSource, Behavioral Health Link, Girl Scouts, the Roberta-Crawford Chamber of Commerce, and other partners came together to create and distribute “Viruses-B-Gone” (VBG) airborne virus protection bags during spring break.

Each tote bag contained masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, tissues, disinfectant wipes, lip balm, and lotion—because hands and lips dry out from wearing masks and sanitizing so much, according to Harris-Woodson. Each household received a shopping cart handle cover. The kits also included information from partners about resources and services for families to utilize during the pandemic and beyond.

“We heard about negative changes in people’s mental and emotional state and that substance abuse was on the rise,” said Harris-Woodson. “We thought this was an effective way to share information for those who needed to reach out for any reason such as behavioral problems, drug abuse, or suicide prevention. We also shared health insurance information for those who had lost jobs.”

The community was invited to attend a drive-through distribution held at the Chamber of Commerce in downtown Roberta. Cars lined up an hour early, and 125 households were served.

“Coming together to pack the bags was great, but the best part was the amount of support we received from the community,” said Arron Adams, who covers 18 counties in Georgia as a community marketing representative for CareSource. “Not only did many people come through, but they were also telling others to come or bringing others back with them. It was a powerful experience. Everyone was truly appreciative of us being there and taking an interest in their health and wellness.”

“We had no idea how many people would come, and I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” said Harris-Woodson. “The seniors who came through were thrilled, and everyone was happy to hear we’re doing it again.”

The Collaborative aims to distribute VBG bags to the community every three months and will work closely with partners to assess the community’s needs.

“Crawford County likes to work together, but sometimes families don’t know what’s available to them,” said Adams. “Instead of having them come to us, we want to provide people with information from many partners as a united front—kind of like a one-stop shop of resources.”

Crawford County students will return to classrooms this fall with the option of virtual learning. Families will receive more VBG kits during Crawford County Schools’ Open House on July 30.

“It’s not just about COVID-19. It’s about trying to stop the spread of any airborne illness throughout the year,” said Harris-Woodson. “When winter comes, kids get severe colds that get passed around at home and to other students—especially when kids come to school sick. We’re always going to have cold and flu season. It took a pandemic for people to look more closely at simple safety measures like using disinfectant and sanitizer and covering your cough.”

Georgia KIDS COUNT data shows that 10.7% of students in Crawford County were absent more than 15 days from school in 2020—higher than Georgia’s average of 8%. Harris-Woodson noted that the ultimate goal is to keep children—and their entire household—healthy so they can stay in school.

“We as organizations need to get back to looking at the whole family,” said Harris-Woodson. “Certain initiatives focus on one group, but it’s not just about the child—it’s also about everyone else who plays a role in what you’re trying to do to make a difference for that child.”

Krystin Dean
GaFCP Communications Specialist

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Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) is a public-private partnership created by the State of Georgia and investors from the private sector to assist communities in addressing the serious challenges facing children and families. GaFCP also serves as a resource to state agencies across Georgia that work to improve the conditions of children and families. Georgia KIDS COUNT provides policymakers and citizens with current data they need to make informed decisions regarding priorities, services, and resources that impact Georgia’s children, youth, families, and communities.