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Agency meeting needs for low-income families

By Erin Smith

Many low-income families in Bladen County often have needs that can potentially go unmet. Some of those needs include employment or better employment, services for children and services for the whole family.

Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc. tries to step in and assist low-income families with providing services such as Head Start and assistance with finding employment. Bladen County Commissioner Arthur Bullock serves on the board.

Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc. Chief Executive Office Erika Whitaker addressed the Bladen County Board of Commissioners on Monday night to give them an update of the past year’s activities. She started by explaining the program was once called Four County.

The agency assists 1,500 families in seven counties and spends $829,000 annually in Bladen County alone, according to Whitacker.

Whitacker said, “We serve the whole family.”

Stephanie Ashley spoke about the Community Service Block Grant. Ashley explained that it is the goal of the Community Service Block Grant to help low-income families achieve self-sufficiency.

“We help them find jobs,” said Ashley.

She added her agency tries to help them find better employment and improve job skills.

From July 2017 through June 2018, the Community Service Block Grant program has assisted 67 individuals. Of those five were employed and 7 found better employment.

Ashley also said the Community Service Block Grant has conducted Youth Enrichment Camps to expose youth to activities and programs they would not normally take part in at home. They also conduct nutrition workshops and other types of workshops.

Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins asked for more information regarding the Youth Enrichment Camp.

Ashley said the most recent one was conducted in Columbus County. She said during the camp the children had a guest speaker and were able to visit a museum in Myrtle Beach.

“We did five different activities,” said Ashley. “We try to expose them to things they are not exposed to normally.”

Tonie Bright, Director of Head Start, spoke about the program in Bladen County. She said currently there are 80 children enrolled in the Bladen County Head Start program operated by Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc.

Bright said $738,000 is spent annually through the Head Start program. There are two locations in the county—Council and Elizabethtown.

Whitacker said the location in Elizabethtown suffered damage to the road during Hurricane Florence and the students are being served at the Council location. She explained the road into the Head Start location on David Street washed out making the facility virtually inaccessible.

Both Whitaker and Bright told the board that the children attending the Elizabethtown facility are being served at other facilities.

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