GCD Celebrates FamiliesBy Yasmine Regester / December 26, 2019
After nearly a year as a member at United Way of Greater Greensboro’s Family Success Center at Guilford Child Development, Cristina Plata has excelled at public speaking, takes yoga and Zumba classes regularly, and has completed courses towards obtaining a GED.
Plata is just one member recognized for her accomplishments at United Way of Greater Greensboro’s Family Success Center (FSC) at Guilford Child Development’s annual holiday celebration on December 20.
The single mother of five suffered the death of her husband two years ago and was unsure of what to do next. She became depressed. She was referred to the FSC and said it has been a blessing to her and her family.
“Something here is different. The love and support that the people put into this make it a great place to be. English is not my first language, but the Speaker’s Bureau class has raised my level of confidence. You have to try. Everyone here is very welcoming, and they made me feel comfortable,” said Plata.
She plans to continue to attend classes at the FSC and volunteer there as much as she can.
The annual event celebrates the families and children they serve. Members received certificates for successful participation in FSC programs, as well as gifts, raffle prizes and a holiday meal. Also, one exemplary member is highlighted every few months as the Member of the Quarter to promote success in and out of the classroom.
Mark Cole, the director of the United Way of Greater Greensboro’s Family Success Center at Guilford Child Development, noted that the term “members” is used instead of clients as a way to empower families.
“We’re here for the whole family and we meet people where they are. This center is not a band-aid, but rather a pathway,” said Cole.
Created through a partnership with The United Way of Greater Greensboro, Family Success Centers are designed to provide wraparound services to every member in a household from childcare to adult classes to access to other community resources. Family Success Centers offers classes to get a GED, work readiness, financial literacy, resumé writing, computer skills, public speaking, and health and wellness.
“It’s not about where you start, but where you’re going and where you finish,” said financial literacy instructor, Ken Griffin of Inheritance Financial Coaching.
Past “Member of the Quarter” recipient, Mariah Denham, came to the FSC in 2017 as a high school dropout raising a young son, unemployed, and just left a domestic violence situation. After months of pushing the idea to the side, she finally joined the FSC and began taking classes. In seven months, she completed the GED program and enrolled at Guilford Technical Community College. She has gone on to earn a CNA certificate.
“Just two years ago, I came in with nothing and they helped me with finding a job and other resources for my family, but they also helped me find myself,” said Denham, who is now employed at Cone Health and pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing from GTCC. Also, the yoga classes Denham took at the FSC led her to become a certified yoga instructor.
“My advice to other women is to just keep going. Let’s see what happens when you push yourself past what you think your limitations are,” Denham added.
The FSC also works to make the programs as accessible as possible to members by supplying bus passes or gas cards to get to class, providing meals at each class and offering free child care for any child, not in Head Start or the public school system.
Both Plata and Denham credit their career coaches for helping them reach their goals. Every FSC member is paired with a “career coach” at the center. Coaches work with members to plan a career path and obtain the education and training needed to reach financial stability for their household.
“I think of myself more as a success coach,” said Melissa Terry, an FSC career coach. “Every member has their own goals and they know what success looks like for them. I’m here to help them get there. It’s very fulfilling for me as well. To me, coaching means I’m pushing you to use your talents to get to that championship.”
According to FSC data, 77 percent (318 individuals) have completed job readiness classes and 39 percent (162 adults) have achieved employment since joining the Family Success Center at the Guilford Child Development site. The site is one of two FSC locations in Greensboro, having served more than 300 families since its inception in 2015. The other site is at the Salvation Army Center of Hope, where they have served over 100 families since it opened in February 2019. UWGG plan is to open two more FSCs by 2022.
Sarah Glover, the manager of United Way of Greater Greensboro Family Success Centers, said one of the things that makes the centers unique is the network of 30 community partnerships that help families move from poverty to self-sufficiency.
“There are more services here in one place, so it is easy to come to get multiple programs and services. We can make more of an impact when we are servicing the whole family — not just the children or adults. It’s also the support that members receive from the staff, and from each other that makes this place so special,” said Glover.