Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lots of Kids Friday night at the movie night

Lisa and Jim report a very successful Friday night movie night in their efforts to provide a positive youth activity as part of their Runaway and Homeless Youth Basic Center program. Around 38 people were here! They are doing a great job building these sorts of positive youth engagement activities. They watched the movie Twilight.

Parkersburg's Advisory Council met yesterday

We had a productive meeting of the Parkersburg Advisory Council yesterday. Besides recapping the successful 30th anniversary event at the end of February, and hearing about some of the site's and agency wide strategic planning efforts, we spent the most time planning a major event for November 6, at the Parkersburg Art Center. This will be a "kick off" (early!) of the Little Red Stocking campaign, by being a holiday stocking display and auction. Stay tuned for more details; various committees will start now doing the planning. We were also very pleased to have one of our foster parents join the advisory council, Missy Rickart. She participated actively, along with one of her foster children! She seemed excited to become involved, and it fulfills one of our goals, of getting our vibrant foster care program involved in the wider site development and marketing efforts.

Veteran's Support Group has a good turnout

17 folks came to the second Veteran's Support Group (dealing with traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder). This is not something we put on, but simply host and provide the community space for. They meet in our "5th door down"- which we set up as a community room when we received generous community support from foundations for the expansion of our office complex. The folks organizing the Veteran's group comment on how relaxed and welcoming the place is! This is important work in the community, and we are glad to be a part of making it happen! The next meeting will be May 26th at 6 pm.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

CHS board strategic planning retreat

Shelley and I attended the CHS board's strategic planning retreat yesterday in Charleston. This was a most inspiring and uplifting opportunity. To see such a dedicated board, and who are both so interested in learning about the complexities of our work and challenges, and who show such a commitment to the agency. Charlotte McCullough was very helpful with a national perspective on some trends, and the board, and staff, worked in some small groups on upcoming possible areas of focus for our work ahead. There is a lot of energy for mentoring program at all the sites, and continuing our efforts around permanency, such as adoption and kinship care. I was encouraged by the interest in transition to adulthood issues by the workgroup and the wider board. This was an amibitious task on a Saturday (which was a beautiful tempting sight outside the windows!) for a group of around 25 dedicated folks connected to CHS. We were also affirmed that our local efforts are fitting in nicely with this wider agency strategic plan, and bolstered in our on-going efforts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Teen movie night tonight at the "Drop In Center"

Jim and Lisa are having a teen movie night tonight as part of their positive youth engagement in the runaway and homeless youth program (Basic Center). They are showing Twilight. These nights provide an opportunity for neighborhood youth (and youth from the wider community) to come together for positive fun, and provide a chance to build a youth togetherness that might lead to support for at risk youth. We'll see how it goes!

Children's Memorial Flag Day-Wood County WV

A number of our staff participated in the Wood County version of the Children's Memorial Flag Day today down at the court house flag pole. I welcomed everyone and gave some opening remarks about Child Abuse Prevention, and our belief about "everyone can make a difference" and that strengthening families and reduce the risk factors was a way a community could impact the issues. I also gave acknowledgement of all the efforts all over the state, in every county, and all across the country to participate in this occasion. There were about 60 people present on this blustery, windy, sunny day. The DHHR staff was well represented, as well as law enforcement, the prosecutors office, other private agencies. We had proclamations from the governor, the county commission, and the mayor of Parkersburg to share. A special recognition was given to Jodi Boylen, an assistant prosecutor for her work over the years with CPS cases.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

100th post! Site Strategic Plan meeting

A goodly number of local site staff gathered yesterday over brown bag lunch to review the work on the local site strategic plan. There was good participation and involvement in looking at the plan, and implementation status for a wildly active children and family service agency! At the end, I challenged or encouraged any staff who wanted to gain some grant writing experience, to see me about some of the many possibilities we have coming up. We have a skilled and experienced bank of grant writers on board, so assistance would be close at hand, but its a good professional growth experience, and our site's success is to a large degree built on some energetic grant writing over the past 10 years. Stay tuned for more updates on all the exciting things going on as outgrowth's of the site's strategic plan! (I hope to post the plan itself soon)- waiting for a few updates to be entered into it.

Family Night report

We had a little smaller than usual turnout at Family Night, but still a good event. Deb did the Shaken Baby Demonstration and presentation to the regular families, and a young couple "guests" who found out about it through Right From the Start. The kids played a version of Jeopardy, and as always, enjoyed the meal and together time! These events are really settling into being an important and connecting time for the neighborhood families and our staff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tonight is Family Night at the Mid Town Family Resource Center

Lisa is bustling away preparing a meal for Family Night tonight. We are just getting back in the swing of the school routine, after last week's spring break for Wood County schools. Tonight, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention month, we are having a presentation on Shaken Baby Syndrome, as a way to help our families prevent such a tragedy. Deb Murphy will present the information, and we hope that all families can reflect on the positive ways they can protect their children, and build the protective factors for their families.

Mr. Apgar is back!

We are happy to have Mr. Apgar back to work with students from the Gustke Shelter who are not able to be in public school settings today. He has been on a vacation to the Carribean (I think). Two students today are hard at work on specially prepared educational materials to suit their particular needs. Even with a recent turnover of residents at the shelter, most students are in public school settings, but for those with unique needs, Mr. Apgar (and his sub- Mr. Spencer) do a great job of tailoring the academic work to the students individual circumstances.
We will be working with Wood County schools to re-apply for the state Department of Education grant to continue this vital work, which we have been supported with grants for about 8 years.

United Way representative visits shelter

Mary Beth Busch visited the agency today as our representative to the committee deciding on the allocations this year. Of particular interest was that Mary Beth had LIVED in the Ogdin Building (the current Shelter building!) in 1984, (when it was a funeral home) So this was a fun tour to conduct! She was very impressed with what has been done to the building, but also had fond memories of the way the building was when she lived there. Mary Beth also was highly impressed with our child and family service site, and the many things we do to protect and nurture children, while strengthening families and helping develop lifelong families for children, and life time connections.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vinyl Record Sale results from Saturday

$268 was raised at the vinyl record sale Saturday in front of the Sound Exchange in Parkersburg (this is being pooled with the proceeds of the Hank Williams tribute the night before) to support the work of the foster care program at the CHS Parkersburg site. I have been seeking donations of old vinyl records for several years and putting on these sales throughout the year. Music lovers love to browse through the stacks o' wax to take their trips down memory lane, or seek that rare find. There is a flurry of activity at the start of the event, and then it tapers off to slow browsing as the day wears on, but still, many good folks stop by, and get to hear a little about the agency and our work with area children and families, and pick up a few records.

Foster Care program fund raiser held Friday night

The foster care program of the CHS-Parkersburg site held a fund raiser Friday night, a Cajun Cook Off and Hank Williams music tribute show at the Dils Center in downtown Parkersburg. The foster care staff, and many others from the site and community, worked hard to put on this fun event. Local restaurants (The Polo Club, Western Sizzlin' and River City Tavern and Grill) and 4 individual cooks participated in the event. The attendees expressed great appreciation for the tasty Cajun dishes worked up by the cooks. We had some great prizes, and even though the voting was (hopefully) friendly and spirited, we thank all the cooks for their contributions. The Polo Club won in the restaurant division and Joe Peyton won in the individual division. Once the music started, the audience was treated to three (well, four, counting our late mystery guest) acts of great music honoring the songs of Hank Williams. The Queens, and their Neon Moon Band got us off to a rollicking start, and Steve Peck and Jonny Nutter added solo performances, rounding out the line up. They all put a great effort into their song selections and performances, and the audience really gets immersed in the music. JT and Corey Smith have been doing the sound for these tribute benefits for quite a while now, and work hard with all the musicians to set it up. The CHS staff were exhausted by the end of the night, and they did a great job of putting this on, and getting the community involved in our work with area children and families. We are finalizing the donations and costs, but it will be around $1000 raised to support the foster care program here in Parkersburg.

Join Hands Day May 2

Several of us met on Friday to organize a community service project for "join hands day" which is annually, nationally held on the first Saturday of May. (visit the website to see the national perspective on this day of service). We were following up since we had to cancel the community service project from Martin Luther King Day in January due to snow and icy roads. The VISTA gals and several of us involved in the positive youth development efforts and the neighborhood work and youth transitioning to adulthood programming will work on this over the next few weeks. We are going to have a work party over at the property at 1611 Latrobe St. ( a few blocks away from our offices) where we previously operated the Gustke Shelter, and we are organizing to try to renovate the building into a transitional living situation for young adults who need a supported living situation. The work party will do some cleaning in preparation for more major renovations we are planning for the building, and try to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the needs of these transitioning youth, and what the agency is doing to try to build services and supports for the youth. We will have more information coming out shortly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tomorrow Night! A tribute to the King of Country Music! And Cajun Food! And supporting a good cause! All in ONE!

Child Abuse Prevention Month activity at Parkersburg Child and Family Service Site

On a windy day, children from the Mid Town Family Resource Center after school program, placed pinwheels and a banner at the CHS site. Lisa Weaver spearheads this effort at drawing attention to Child Abuse Prevention Month. Other activities this month include our sponsoring Shaken Baby Syndrome awareness sessions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Agency beginning to get ready for COA re-accreditation

Andy Nicholas attended an organizing meeting in Charleston for CHS' Council of Accreditation re-accreditation preparation for 2010, on the Shelter program today. Andy reports it being a good productive meeting. This will be just the first of a number of COA preparation meetings that people from our site will be involved in; foster care, early childhood programs, after school program, runaway and homeless youth programs, and some administrative areas. We are glad to contribute to this important work of the overall agency over the next year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bumped into a former employee last night

I was out watching my son's band last night (The Greens) and bumped into Jessica, a former shelter worker. She works at the Bureau of Public Debt here in Parkersburg (since she left the shelter). She is working on a business bachelors degree, and has further plans in "international business." I told her, she represents, to me, a "success" story of a person who, worked at the shelter for about 2 years, moved on to a better paying job, with a future in the line of work she wanted, but greatly contributed to the work of the shelter while she was there. She asked about some staff, and reflected on how challenging the work was, but that it was a good experience. She remains a "friend" of the agency, and it was good to see her.

Second event of the year in our 2009 Americana Music TributeSeries

A couple of years ago, I dreamed up this on-going series to combine my love for live local music, with a modest fund raising effort for the agency's work with area children and families. I would seek local musicians who would be willing to play a set of music commemorating some icon in the Americana music world, and local music fans would pay $5 to hear an evening of music, and get some chances to win a prize, or enter a contest of trivia or silliness related to the Americana music legend we were celebrating. I have been through a wild journey of venues - all people I knew who were willing to open their venue up to this fund raiser, some supporting the event monetarily, some just knowing it was a good chance to get a crowd in, and they wouldn't have to pay a band that night!!! We've been through lots of thick's and thin's with crowds; but we keep soldiering on. I've ended up with a very dedicated, loyal and enthusiastic core group of friends who help out, and give encouragement. We make up for in volume of event-by-event fundraising, with up to 6 events a year. We started this Hank Williams tribute in the middle, its up to its Third year now. It started as a Whole Lotta Hank (Thanks Ashlie for t he name!!!) because she really wanted there to be a full gamut of Hank Senior, Hank Junior and Hank III in the music. Its pretty much settled to Hank Senior by now, but you never know what someone will throw in. The music is always great; I just suffer some times because musicians who commit to coming don't show up and headaches like that. Sometimes I have a really challenging task at setting the order of who is playing when; there are some prime times, and some rough times (the very first act, and the late ones). I hope people understand the challenges, and usually there is pretty good feedback that a "good time was had by all." There is always room for new ideas, and people to volunteer to help organize the next one. That continues to be the sign this is a worthwhile series, we all are eager to look ahead to the next one, even if we are tired or discouraged at one point in time.
Speaking of the next one, May 30th at 6 Pence Pub is our second Bob Dylan tribute.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vinyl RecordSale next Saturday

I have been having used vinyl record sales for several years, as a running fund raiser for the Parkersburg site of the agency. I have done this for probably 3-4 years. It was a simple premise: let people know I was gathering old collections of vinyl records, and then several times a year, have a sale of those donated records. Many people do this with book sales, or yard sales, etc. But I wanted to combine my love for music, and my intrigue with musical trivia and nostalgia, with a chance to raise a little money, and get people together around music, who might learn a little about Children's Home Society in the bargain. I made a decision early on to sell the records for $1 each; no matter what they might be worth on e-bay or such, just to keep my part of it simple. Many people I am sure have got great bargains in the process, and turned around and sold them for more. But I have made a lot of people happy with the simple pricing. I have had some great collections donated, and many records have gone in and out. At $1 a record (other than generous donors who round up their purchases, etc.) I have made over $1000 each of the last few years with this running vinyl record sale. Now, granted, many of these sales were to a few stalwart individuals who bought huge quantities of records at times, when great collections came in. Libraries, (schools) when they were clearing out their records donated many records.
I am gearing up the for sale next Saturday, and sold $40 worth today to a friend who got a sneak preview opportunity. The sale is held at the Sound Exchange, 3417 Murdoch Ave. Parkersburg. This is a locally owned used CD, DVD, and new CD store, and they have a collection of vinyl. They have been good partners for many of the sales, in the "inbetween" seasons of spring and fall. Sometimes in the summer I'll have an indoor (air conditioned) sale. I have a huge quantity of records I will never be able to sell stored away, so if anybody has any creative ideas for these records let me know.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hank Williams Tribute/ fundraiser

We are within a week of the next event in our Americana Music series- this is the third annual Hank Williams tribute. We have added a Cajun Cook off to this year's event. It will be held at the Dils Center in downtown Parkersburg on April 17th. The food starts things off at 6 pm, for a $5 donation, and the music starts at 8 Pm. I am amassing some pretty great door and contest prizes. The Cookoff is still being finalized so stay tuned for updated information into the beginning of next week. The music promises to be fantastic with The Queens and their Neon Moon Band, and tried and true musician/ performers: Jonny Nutter and Stephen Peck in the line up. Look for some surprise spontaneous performances throughout the evening. These tribute shows are building in reputation for being great fun for the audience.

April 22nd - local site's strategic planning meeting

We will be having a site-wide strategic planning meeting on Wednesday, April 22nd over the noon hour. We have worked since December on this; with a meeting then, and a follow up meeting more recently. I'll try to post the notes for this here in a future posting. All site staff are welcome and encouraged to participate. We will also share the plan with the advisory committee in the coming month. We are adding things almost weekly to our exciting work here in the Wood County area.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. At the Parkersburg site of Children's Home Society, we acknowledge this important month in many ways. One way, through our Partners in Prevention grants, is to join Prevent Child Abuse state chapters across the country in using the pinwheel symbol, to help remind people we can all make a difference in children's and families lives, by supporting them and strengthening families, in ways that reduce the risk of child abuse. This picture shows part of our local effort to display the pinwheels, to draw attention to our efforts. These pinwheels really blew hard in the wind, "planted" by two shelter residents and two staff. A larger effort was made at the child and family service office site, where many children from the after school program, some youth volunteers and agency staff, "planted" pinwheels in our fence, and displayed a banner about Child Abuse Prevention month, and its theme, contributed by local school students. More on this later!!!

Next week is spring break for Wood County schools

Next week is spring break for Wood County schools; this brings some change of pace for the Parkersburg site. The shelter goes into a different daily routine with no school. The after school program takes a break from its routine, but we will still be bustling with activity in the Mid Town Family Resource Center. A few staff adjust their schedules or take advantage of change of paces to do things a little differently.

3rd Young Fathers support group meeting

We had the third in our series of support groups for young dads tonight. This was an exciting sharing experience, though the turnouts have been lower the last two weeks. We think we are doing an exciting thing by getting these started, and we are very open to having them evolve in any way that helps the young dads. Next week we are broadening out (hopefully) by having a "shaken baby syndrome" session, led by Deb Murphy, using the doll and materials we received from the Great Beginnings mini-grant.

statewide WV Promise VISTA meeting

I attended the statewide WV Promise Vista project meeting Monday and Tuesday in Shepherdstown. Our two VISTA's, Patty and Kindra, were also in attendance. We attended a regional drop out prevention summit for that Eastern Panhandle area on MOnday, and had our own meeting Tuesday. Shepherdstown is a nice little college town, near enough to DC to have some access to culture and government jobs, etc. but rural and scenic enough to have a great quality of life! The meetings solidified our "bonds" with WV's Promise and the VISTA projects connected to that. Kindra had a bad tooth ache, which dampened her experience, but everyone took good care of her, and there will still be some good experiences and memories generated from the two day adventure.

new licensing specialist for the Shelter

We had a visit from the new licensing specialist for the shelter today, Cristy Rigg. She was previously the director of the Morgantown shelter, where I got to know her through the Emergency Shelter Provider Network (affectionately known as the "ESPN"). Cristy had a tour of the facility and met with Andy and various staff. She has visited about 4 of the CHS shelters now, and will visit the others over the next months. Lewis Wolfe, who had done our last licensing review, came with her to "connect" her to us, but turned over the reins to Cristy.

Parkersburg site receives "Explorations" Grant

Our Mid Town Family Resource Center received announcement of being given an Explorations grant this week. This $10,000 grant will provide staffing budget for summer programming in our "out of school time" neighborhood work with particular focus on middle and high school age students. More on this later!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Congratulations to Shelley Plauche, who was chosen, along with Mark Drennan, by Dennis to fill a new position in the administrative unit at Children's Home Society, as an "administrative project specialist"- she will continue to work from the Parkersburg site, but have some administrative tasks throughout the agency. This is quite a positive thing for the agency, the site, and Shelley, acknowledging her skills and commitment to the agency. She began yesterday in the new position!

sorry, no April Fool's Jokes on the blog

Yesterday being April Fool's Day and all, I probably should have tried an April Fool's joke, and announced something dramatic to trick the readers, but I am too serious about my journalistic integrity and take the role of blog-o-sphere poster as a ethical standard. Besides, I couldn't think of a good Fool's joke.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Children's Memorial Flag Day- Wood County

I have been working with the Wood District DHHR about plans for our community's recognition of Children's Memorial Flag Day. It will be down at the government complex downtown at noon on the 24th (the last Friday of April). The city is cooperating with flying the flag all month, and providing the use of Bicentennial Park for the event. More details coming soon!

Regional Drop Out Summit Tomorrow

Shelley and I will be attending a regional drop out prevention summit tomorrow out at Mountwood Park, at our Alliance partner's Pressley Ridge's White Oak facility. These drop out summits around the state are part of America's Promise national effort to raise the issues and dialogues surrounding high school graduation rates and drop out students' situations. Our two VISTA's have been working diligently on these summits around the state. We see so many shelter youth, and youth in foster care whose primary "problems" are related to school performance, behavior and alienation.


Gaynelle Jarvis', shelter social worker, mother passed away on Sunday March 29th. Several of us are attending the funeral this afternoon.

attending a statewide after school program meeting

I traveled to Flatwoods yesterday to attend an organizing meeting of a wide variety of groups involved in after school care, who are beginning to organize some standards and potentially licensing regulations regarding after school care. This was an interesting and informative meeting which fits nicely into our agency's preparation work for Council of Accreditation re-accreditation next year. George and Christine have been preparing for COA and have been helpful at linking our site's Mid Town Family Resource Center (and after school program) with preparation materials for getting our information together.

Carna presents to Shelter Staff about foster care

Andy arranged for the monthly shelter training this month to be a presentation about our agency's foster care program. Carna did a great job of summarizing foster care for the shelter staff. A good discussion occurred among Andy, Carna and the staff about recruitment of foster homes, cross-training (PRIDE, etc.) and working together on a case where a child was at the shelter and would go into one of our foster homes. Thanks to Andy and Carna for arranging this exciting "cross program" interaction!