United Way works to give children a future

* Editor’s Note: This is the next story in a series about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – Helping families and creating safe and secure environments for children through the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia has been the focus for funding from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Through this year’s cycle, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia has received $4,500 from the alliance to fund its Mid-Town Family Resource Center, which was established to build protective factors to reduce child abuse and neglect, said Shelley Plauche, regional director of the society’s Parkersburg office at 1717 St. Marys Ave.

“The center is one of our 12 programs and the money from the United Way goes to the focus on supporting neighborhood families in a number of ways,” Plauche said.

The Parkersburg office has operated a series of neighborhood-based prevention, youth development and family support services since 1998. The family resource center supports families by providing after-school care with academic help as well as child abuse prevention through strengthening of the family unit.

The secondary focuses of the program include delinquency prevention, positive youth development, service learning opportunities and other help through a clothing closet, food pantry and computer re-distribution program.

“I was brought up to be independent and not ask for help, but with the help of Lisa (Weaver, program specialist with the organization), I realized the saying is true and it takes a village to raise a family,” said Tisha Lambert, who along with her husband has eight children. “This whole agency has become my village.”

All of Lambert’s children are involved with programs at the society in one way or another and have started to help volunteer.

“Life throws you curve balls and the agency has been here to help us catch them,” she added. “We give back to the people who have always helped us.”

In 2012, the center aided 800 different families and expects to help more this year through the clothing closet and food pantry.

“Families lost between $20 and $150 monthly when the government reduced SNAP benefits, so I expect to see this grow,” Plauche said.

The food bank helped nearly 700 individuals, about 200 families, between January and November last year.

The Mid-Town Learning Center also has an after-school program for students who attend McKinley Elementary in grades kindergarten through sixth.

“Our after-school program has about 40 kids who come in with even more participating in our summer program,” said Weaver.

The summer program lasts six weeks and includes a field trip per week, activities and learning of life skills, which includes how to balance a budget.

Also, before the start of the current school year, the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley provided 35 backpacks and school supplies, Plauche said.

“We are really pleased with the support we get from the community in helping to build stronger families and children,” she added.