Twenty-five years ago, two Coffee County educators heard of a new program funded by a state grant to create Family Resource Centers. Kim Aaron, current Coffee County Middle School principal, and Sue Banks, retired Coffee County administrator, applied for the grant.
Coffee County Family Resource Center coordinator Taylor Rayfield explained there are only 113 FRCs in 72 school districts, out of the 147 districts in the state.
“The goal was to have it at some of our elementary schools – Hickerson, Hillsboro – and to partner immediately with Pre-K. I think, over the years, what was noticed was we had a lot of arising needs so (FRC) needed to venture out and be district-wide,” explained Rayfield.
Now, 25 years later, Coffee County’s FRC is thriving. In 2018-19, Coffee County Family Resource Center (CCFRC) helped 1,148 individual students. The center used $184,751.93 in goods, services, donations and grants.
This year’s goals were to decrease chronic absenteeism by 5 percent, meaning reduce the number of students who were missing more than 18 days of school in one academic year, increase the number of families served by 5 percent, increase family engagement and training by 5 percent each, increase partnerships and resources by 5 percent, and increase the number of professional development opportunities centered around the social/emotional wellbeing of students by 5 percent
“We couldn’t operate or take care of the needs 0f children without the community support,” Rayfield said.
The county’s FRC offers the annual Stuff the Bus Tour, which had 60 stops last year and gives out school supplies to students; the annual Coffee County Student Expo, which has been going on for five years and gave away about 10,000 pounds of food last year, including shoe vouchers and haircuts; the new mobile food pantry to supply food to families; the Angel Tree program; family workshops; and poverty simulations so faculty and administration can get a feel for what some students and families are working through.
This year’s Coffee County Student Expo will be July 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Coffee County Central High School. It is first come, first serve. The first 500 students will receive a shoe voucher. Also offered are haircuts, groceries, school supplies, community resources and more. It is free.
In addition to programs, two county schools are now trained to be trauma informed – Coffee Middle School and North Coffee Elementary School.
“We want to make sure that we are educating our folks to realize the importance of recognizing our students that have had traumatic experiences, how to respond appropriately and have those strategies when they’re dealing with those situations so they’re able to continue to regulate those students well,” Rayfield said.
CMS principal Kim Aaron explained she’s seen positive results.
North Coffee principal Adam Clark added the whole idea behind the trauma informed schools isn’t to reduce punishment, but to build relationships.
Honoring those along the way
Four CCFRC members were honored for their service. Aaron and Sue Banks, who were responsible for writing the grant that formed the CCFRC in 1993, and Sarah Hailey, who served from 1993-2010, and Sid Hill, who was with the FRC from 2007-2011.
“[Sue] allowed me to dream big dream, think about things and consider the possibilities,” said Aaron.
Banks added she was honored to see how much the center has grown.
Also recognized were community partners, including Carter Sain from the Sportsmen and Business Charitable Organization and the Dusty Elam Foundation.