Athens Now is pleased to welcome Sarah Moquin Chadwell, the Director of the Family Resource Center here in Athens to our writing staff. Sarah graduated from the University of Alabama, and has had a career in broadcast journalism and media consulting. Her column will be focusing on the stories of the people of Athens she encounters every day, and her desire is to give them “a voice.”
Welcome, Sarah!
Don’t you just love a simple question?

It’s probably due to the fact that simple questions require minimal brain power to process and respond as we are facing the never ending complexities of our smart phone, Facebook, CNN, twitter (still haven’t tried it) life.

Dry or wet food for the cats? Jeans or shorts? Tomatoes with or without the skins before placing in the salad? My name is Sarah Chadwell, and I work alongside three educated, talented, and gifted woman who are finding that simple questions posed to them each day are requiring more and more complicated, heart wrenching, and resource draining answers.

You may have heard of the Athens Limestone County Family Resource Center. We are located on Jefferson Street right next to Dub’s, and on most days you will find single struggling mothers, jobless fathers, and families who find themselves under - educated or with low incomes and who are about to be homeless or hungry. They also realize they need someone to help them make a positive change on a path that is going totally off course.

These families have simple questions: “Do you have diapers, as I cannot buy them this month?” “Can you help us find a job?” Or, “We have been evicted and are living in the hotel with our two children, is there a low cost place to live?”

Our Social Worker, Parent Educator, and Juvenile Community Service program directors just don’t know how to give a simple answer. That’s because they know that these questions are just the top of a mountain of personal and family circumstances, social and education issues, drug or alcohol addictions and more that have brought them to our Resource Center.

Let’s go back a few years ago, when Governor Bob Riley had the opportunity to do a study asking another simple question: “How can we improve social service support to Alabama families in need?” The answer was based on research in other communities and states, research that showed that to create a positive change for a family in need, you must solve the immediate crisis first (emergency shelter, food and safety.) But in addition, you must provide the social service tools, the personal one-on-one guidance and mentoring, in order to help the family move out of their situation for the long term.

So, the simple answer to Governor Riley’s question was that “communities need a Family Resource Center to create positive changes for both now and the future.”

The Athens Family Resource Center has operated for over five years at their Jefferson Street location, and is designed to be the “go to place” to find information on existing resources (food banks, community action, hospice, Learn to Read, DHR and so much more) AND provide a visiting home for resources not available in our community but that are needed. Here in Athens, we provide an opportunity for families to visit the Morgan County Career Link / Employment office, Madison County’s LAUNCH to help youth find jobs, Morgan county Vocational Rehab to help our disabled, and the Madison County Crisis services to support victims of violence. Even if they are based in other counties, they are funded to provide personal support to families here in our community.

Once that simple question of “can you help me” is asked, we find that by having all the puzzle pieces or social services information at our fingertips, we can empower each family to find an individualized solution that works.

It only involves our staff and their talents who are using community resources to support local families with our local government support. Sound simple? It may.

Why should you care? That’s really up to you. It is your community and our families’ future. Just one simple question to think about!

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