The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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Sunday Profile

November 13, 2011

Summers County Family Resource Center

HINTON — “Raising children is one of the most important and difficult jobs,” said Amber Stover, executive director of REACHH, a Summers County Family Resource Center that focuses on providing support, referrals, assistance and education.

As the only family resource center in Summers County, this organization has the challenge of reaching out to rural communities from Hinton through a variety of programs for parents of all-aged children.

REACHH, which stands for Reaching Everyone to Assist in Creating Healthier Homes, focuses on “providing programs that support and empower families as well as prevent child abuse,” she said.

Parents As Teachers is a national program that provides in-home family education for families with kids 0-5, Stover said.

Home visitors stop by at least once a month and do activities with the parents and children and teach parents about developmental milestones, giving them the tools to make sure their children reach those milestones.

“For many families in Summers County, transportation is a huge issue, so home visits are an important asset for people who don’t have a car,” she said.

Parents As Teachers families are invited to join play groups at the center once a week (as well as others in the community with children 0-5). Children have the opportunity to interact, play, and have lunch while parents get a presentation on a parenting topic.

REACHH also has a Starting Point Center that works with any family with a child up to age 18.

The organization acts as a resource for families when they don’t know where else to turn, explained Stover. Their assistance may be as basic as locating furniture or connecting them with a food pantry or helping to get their child in therapy.

REACHH families are invited to attend family nights where parents and children do an activity or craft together, and an educational component is included.

“Everything we do is designed around education,” explained Stover.

 “We are not telling the parent how to raise their children, but we are giving them the tools to learn what kind of parenting skills will be best for their family.”

Stover said that the educational component is especially important in rural areas like much of Summers County.

“People don’t get out and get to experience other styles of parenting. Sometimes all we know is what we have lived through. It is not necessary to change how we were raised or our family’s parenting style, but we hope families find out how to build on their parenting skills to become the most effective parents possible.”

REACHH also boasts an after-school program at Hinton Elementary for any child up to fifth grade.

Tutors help them with homework, encourage them to play outside or in the gym and help them build social skills so they learn to communicate better with each other, she said.

The after-school program includes creative learning activities to allow students to express themselves in a healthy way.

REACHH’s after-school program has recently been awarded a grant from Dollar General to purchase laptops. The program is excited to use this technology to boost literacy.

And finally, the organization works to ease the financial burden of having a baby during tough economic times.

REACHH holds Community Baby Showers for anyone in Summers County who is pregnant or who has a child up to age 1, said Stover.

Usually one large gift, like a stroller or car seat, is given out alongside necessities like diapers and wipes at the showers.

The organization also runs a baby pantry where donated baby items are gathered to assist families who might need help.

“For many parents, sometimes it is a matter of an unexpected bill on a limited budget. We do what we can to help them through the end of the month. Everything is hard in today’s economy. Sometimes parents just need a little extra support,” she added.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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