Despite losing Coordinator Tara Jennings recently, Bryan County Family Connection is apparently still going strong.
"I don’t want people to think that, with Tara gone, there will be some big restructuring process," Interim BCFC Coordinator Wendy Sims said. "We may have lost our coordinator, but all the collaborative partners are intact and have been extremely supportive through this transition."
Jennings, who was the BCFC coordinator since the group’s inception in 1991, remains involved in BCFC both by assisting Sims and by recently being hired by BCFC collaborative partner United Way. Jennings is now the vice president of allocations for the Coastal Empire branch of United Way.
Sims has applied to be the permanent coordinator. This decision is pending approval from the Executive Board and also the county, since BCFC is a county-run program.
"Just yesterday, Wendy and I spent an hour together," Jennings said. "It took seven years to build this organization, and I intend to help behind the scenes in order to make this a smooth transition. The strength of BCFC is in the collaborative. I may have been the engine, but a train can’t run if it has nothing to pull. Instead of the driver, I intend to now be a cart like everyone else in this collaborative."
Jennings spoke of how local law enforcement has been, and will continue to be, a strong collaborative partner by providing office space, internet and an immeasurable amount of assistance. This is further reflected by the fact that the last three BCFC chairmen have represented the RHPD, PPD and the Sheriff’s Department.
The most recent chairman, BCSD Captain Mike Maxwell, took over the position from RHPD Chief Billy Reynolds on July 1. Maxwell has been the vice chairman for the past two years. He is also a United Way board member. The chairman position is a three year commitment.
"I’m looking forward to the challenge of moving forward with our collaborative," Maxwell said. "Ours is one of the more successful Family Connection groups in the state, and I attribute that to the strong law enforcement component that exists here. That’s because we, as law enforcement, see the root of all the things that this organization is trying to fix. We’re called to suicides and domestic issues, and have a unique perspective on what needs to be done to decrease these types of problems in our community."
The organization held a meeting July 10, where members reviewed and assessed ongoing and future projects for the next three years.
"Our three year plan is already established and we’re making revisions on it now," Sims said.
The plan is required in order to receive $50,000 annually from the governor’s office. These funds are used for items such as operation, salaries and office supplies. Beyond those, BCFC runs on grants to fund its various programs.
Those programs, which are included in the three year plan, include the juvenile diversion program, the Richmond Hill teen center and family counseling programs. A governmental grant to enhance the recently formed Bryan County Drug Coalition, that could garner up to $625,00 over several years, has been applied for and is pending approval. Sims said they should have an answer by September.
Sims continues to run the BCFC juvenile diversion program, which was her full-time position before taking on interim coordinator. Raquel Taylor has since been hired to help Sims with the diversion program on a part time basis.
Sims said the teen centers on both ends of the county are still in full swing. The Richmond Hill center is currently from 1-7 p.m. while the Miller Teen Center in Pembroke is open 4-7 p.m.