JOIP intern Anastasiya Titarenko reflects on how her ‘one-stop shop’ placement serves all of Walker County. Part of a series of thought pieces from our interns embedded in communities across Alabama.
The Jasper Area Family Services Center on Delaware Avenue is a ‘one-stop shop’ where anyone can turn to for empowering resources and programs.
The Center may look ordinary from the outside, but that all changes upon entering the front doors. Visitors can find the busy offices of program directors, classrooms with encouraging and informational posters on the walls, and common spaces that are almost always filled with meaningful instruction or discussion. The basement of the Center contains hundreds of books provided by the Literacy Council of Walker County.
However, the most unique part of the Center is its unmistakable atmosphere and energy, which is created by staff whose knowledge and passion is devoted to investing in the community they call home. Because of the Center’s work, Walker County residents are becoming better parents, gaining access to employment opportunities, and building better lives for themselves and their families.
Many Services, One Roof
The Center’s versatile and comprehensive community-based programming in one central location are what make it special. Judge Henry Allred, who has worked with the Center since 2009, describes it as “one building that houses so many services that are vital to the people.”
More than ten programs are offered at the Center, all of them geared towards improving the lives of youth, individuals, and families. On average, the Center serves more than 250 families per month, a fact that Judge Allred suggests makes a positive impact on the entire Walker County area.
“You can’t be all things to all people, but if you collaborate it’s like putting a puzzle together.”
-Donna Kilgore, Jasper Area Family Services Center Director
The programs offered at the Center serve everyone from babies to senior citizens. Baby Talk and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), aims to increase parents’ knowledge of developmental activities they can engage in with their children to increase their school readiness and foster a strong and healthy parent-child relationship. The Fatherhood Initiative works to help children by increasing the number of fathers involved with their kids in a consistent, committed manner.
The Walker County Coalition for the Homeless, established in 2010, works to find permanent and temporary housing solutions for the homeless population in the county. The Youth Advocate Program, a nationally recognized initiative, provides trained advocates to help families and individuals by offering alternatives to institutional placements.
On top of that, numerous courses are offered at the Center, including GED courses, adult literacy instruction, defensive driving, and technology courses for senior citizens.
The Jasper Area Family Services Center is also home for the Parent Project, Project Vision, and Employment Preparation Services, the Walker County Children’s Policy Council and the Literacy Council of Walker County.
“The people that we’re seeking to serve have transportation problems…it’s really beneficial to be able to send them all to one spot and get them to go see four or five different people.”
-Judge Henry Allred, Walker County Children’s Policy Council
The current setup was intentional to make access to services easier for area residents. “The people that we’re seeking to serve, a lot of them have transportation problems,” Judge Allred said. “It’s really beneficial to be able to send them all to one spot and get them to go see four or five different people.”
Donna Kilgore, the executive director of the Center since 2007, is a native of Walker County. She spent the last 26 years working in the community. Judge Allred said he respects Kilgore’s leadership. He added, “I have worked closely with Donna for almost 10 years now. There’s a handful of people who I work with on a day-to-day basis that I absolutely could not do what I do without. Donna Kilgore is one of those people.”
Kilgore often works long hours, but she finds fulfillment in the long days. She said, “When I realize and see that a program we’re operating impacts someone’s life for the better, that’s the most rewarding part.”
“It’s amazing to have so many programs. I love it because being able to guide clients to the different programs is easy and provides a personal touch.”
-Sherry Tuggle, Jasper Area Family Services Center
When clients enter the Services Center, they will often be greeted by Sherry Tuggle, the Center’s administrative assistant. Tuggle said that interacting with program participants and clients is the best part of her job. “Everyone is so kind to the people who come through the door. They are always made to feel welcome.”
Tuggle said she believes that another advantage of the Center’s offering of multiple programs in one location is that it enables the development of personal connections among service providers and clients. “It’s amazing to have so many programs. I love it because being able to guide clients to the different programs is easy and provides a personal touch.”
Even if people’s needs cannot be met by the Center itself, the experienced team working there has extensive knowledge of other services and programs and can easily refer folks to the people and places they should contact for assistance.
Kilgore agreed that close quarters allows for easier teamwork among programs. She said, “You can’t be all things to all people, but if you collaborate it’s like putting a puzzle together.”
Judge Allred said the multiple missions of the Center are energized by one main goal. “We want to give people the tools and opportunities to change their life, and we want to support them to be able to do that.”
-Written by Anastasiya Titarenko, 2016-17 Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern