By Stephen Smoot
“A family support center is a warm and welcome center where families can come for support,” explained Susan Knibiehly, executive director of the new Pendleton County Support Center in Franklin.
“Our goal is to strengthen families any way we possibly can,” she added.
Last week, the Eastern Action Building on 204 Gambill Road welcomed families for the first time to the center. Approximately 20 children played games, enjoyed refreshments, and got to meet with both Santa Claus and the Grinch.
Families mingled with community members, such as county commissioner Roger Dahmer, Franklin mayor Bob Horan, and Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce director Elizabeth Scott, who all came to learn more about the impact of the center.
Horan explained that “we have a lot of families in this area who don’t have the means to get what they and their children need. This will be a big asset to help those families.” He added that “once parents see it and get involved in it, we will see a tremendous impact.”
The center welcomes families facing challenges. Parents can come to socialize, to learn, or to find ways to connect with vital resources. Children can eat, drink, play with toys, and take part in activities when scheduled.
Knibiehly stated that “we’ve been working on this since March or April.” The organization successfully applied for a grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Four counties, Pendleton, Hampshire, Hardy, and Grant, received funds to open centers for county families.
Pendleton County’s opened first.
The center held a ribbon cutting in conjunction with the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce. Dahmer announced, “I’d like to welcome you all to the Pendleton County Family Support Center.”
The work that comes next is pivotal. Families in need used to be able to rely on friends and relatives in a network of support systems. As families shrink, and many face struggles and even crisis, fewer resources are readily available.
“A lot of folks don’t know what’s out there,” Knibiehly stated, adding that “our first challenge will be awareness in the community, making sure families know we’re here.”
She encouraged those in need to understand that “they don’t need appointments. They can just stop in.”
The center will have normal hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but will also offer activities, classes, and other events on evenings and weekends. “It’s important to watch the Facebook page to find out what’s going on,” she said.
Strive to Thrive will partner with other community and youth support agencies in the area. Knibiehly shared that “the Communities In Schools and Family Support Center partnership is one of the keys to serving families in the community. Hopefully, we can combine these two services and really make a difference.”
King Seegar, retired Pendleton County pediatrician, added that “all families are in need in Pendleton County. We’ve got some fabulous programs.” He added that “what’s intriguing to me is this grant has been extant for multiple centers in West Virginia for years. This is the first time that the four counties involved have gotten the grant.”
The purpose and mission, as Knibiehly described, lies in serving as “a hand up to families. We’re trying to offer supports to supplement what is here in the community and lift families up.”