Community Care of Marlinton forges unique partnership
There's a lot going on at Community Care of Marlinton, which found its home in the former Senior Citizens building on Third Avenue.
Free parenting and family assistance programs are housed downstairs, while upstairs, subsidized, or even free healthcare, depending on income, is available. Two separate entities, but their focus is the same- helping the community. The two complement each other perfectly.
The first floor of the building houses the new Pocahontas County Family Outreach and Education Center. According to Family Resource Network director Laura Young, it's kind of a one-stop-shop for anything that has to do with families.
"We can hook people up with Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, WIC, any kind of government agency - we have all that referral information and we can help people transition into those programs," said Young. "We're also going to be doing a lot of education classes with new families, young families."
Young said they also plan to host nutrition and cooking classes, as well. Another one of the programs, About Babies and Children, is an open-ended discussion where participants choose what they want to learn about.
"Once a month we have new or expecting families come in and we'll pick a topic, something they want to learn about. We'll spend about an hour discussing that and we get them information. For instance it might be car seat safety. We'll spend an hour talking about the importance of buckling your child up, how to put the car seat in the car properly, why it's important that the car seat fit the child."
Young said participants are given free diapers and baby wipes for attending.
"Diapers and wipes and shampoo and things like that are all things that parents cannot use food stamps to buy," Young explained.
Young said the center maintains an open-door policy, and that the space is available for any civic organizations that might need room for an event.
"We're going to try and put a calendar up. If you need to, you just mark off your block of time and we'll make sure that the doors are open or that you have a key," offered Young. "We would like to try and find out what the community needs are. We really want it to be a space that the community owns."
The center is staffed by two full-time employees. Thomas Peterson, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Marian Wright, of Cleveland, Ohio, are both VISTAs at the center.
Peterson said they hope to offer a safe, family-oriented environment for kids and families.
"They can come watch TV, we have access to the Internet, if they want to have a place to go and come hang out, there's always someone here," said Peterson. There are also plans for a ping-pong table in the works for teenagers looking for a place to hang out.
Peterson said he enjoys working at the center so much that when his term with the VISTA program is up, he plans to stay on at the community center.
Wright is the program director at the community center. She talked about what she hopes to accomplish.
"Our idea is pretty much strengthening families," Wright said. "To give families a place where they can come and learn. We just finished our first round of parenting classes and the people were actually sad that it was over. It went really well. We hope people come out and check out our new space, even if they just want to bring their kids to come and play, we're here."
Wright has been working on a community-wide baby shower scheduled for May 5. She said they plan to have guest speakers and prize giveaways.
"We give away awesome prizes," laughed Wright.
She said they'll be giving away cribs, strollers and car seats. Participants also get a free diaper bag.
Even with Peterson and Wright's dedication, Young said they hope to attract a few local volunteers that want to help.
"Volunteers have been and continue to be, vital to what the FRN does," explained Young. "Sometimes I have to pull the employees and take them to state meetings or conferences and things. We really don't want to shut the center down when we're doing that. So we're looking for a corps of volunteers, maybe four or five people who are looking for something that they can do in the community to make a difference. People that know about our services, that can answer the phone, greet people as they come through the door - you never know when someone is gonna stop in. We want it to be someone that takes pride in it, and just really has some ownership in it."
Young wrote the grant to fund the center last July and she said she is pleased with the way things are coming together.
"When I wrote the grant, I had a vision of what I wanted to bring to the community, but I wondered if I'd really be able to do it. When I walk through the doors, it's like, yes! We did it! We're so excited to be here. It's going to add so much to the community."
Young invited any and all residents to attend the center's grand opening Friday, April 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. She said they're looking for ideas and input from the community.
"We'll let people come in and look at the space and talk about what they'd like to see here," Young continued. "Anybody can come down."
The Pocahontas County Family Outreach and Education Center hopes to make a difference in town, but the project couldn't have happened without its upstairs neighbor, Community Care of Marlinton.
"When Community Care came in, I heard through the grapevine that they weren't going to use the downstairs of their building," said Young. "They were just going to open it up and if you wanted to come in and do some kind of class or something, call them and they'd let you use the space for free. I thought to myself 'hmmmm.' So I called Donna Shearer and I told her what I was looking for. She said 'oh my god, Laura! That's a perfect match for us! If you can come in and outfit the space, have your employees staff it, that'd be wonderful for us.'"
Young told Shearer that they wouldn't be able to afford rent or utilities.
"She said, 'don't worry about that. We'll take care of that. You staff it and furnish it, and we'll go with it.' They've been very welcoming and accommodating with us. It's just a match made in heaven. It just dropped right out of the sky into my lap," said Young.
Community Care of Marlinton is a healthcare facility that provides primary physician care to people of all ages. Most of their patients come in for the usual illnesses or for physicals, but the clinic provides a wide range of services, all using a sliding fee, dependent on household income. The idea is to provide affordable healthcare through different programs, like West Virginia Connect.
"We have some programs that help low-income folks," said Shearer, office manager at the clinic. "Also for folks that are working, but don't have insurance, or have insurance but can't afford their co-pay. And if you're above the income level, it's a one-time fee of $30."
The doors just opened in January, but they're all settled in. Physician's assistant Valarie Monico said she's been seeing a lot of walk-in patients, and attributes it to the downtown location and the convenient hours.