Manatee County has no shortage of services, but the struggle to connect the services to those in need is real.
“An example of that is youth services and there are a lot available, but many don’t realize it,” said Pathways Christian Fellowship Center Pastor Willie Holley of the Faith Based Alliance. “We want to bring a coalition of those services together to get more bang for the buck, if you will.”
The Alliance acts a conduit within the community to help connect those needing help with those who can. Tuesday’s Faith Based Alliance meeting brought together a variety of entities that offer youth services.
Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene, Take Stock in Children Executive Director Diana Dill, Family Resource Center community liaison Amy Manning and Centerstone walk-in center manager Charles Whitfield highlighted their available services.
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We have kids who are struggling and we need better education on the services that are out there for people.
Charles Whitfield, manager of Centerstone’s walk-in center
Topics ranged from child mental illness and crisis support to college assistance. The school district has a wealth of programs to address most child-related issues. Greene discussed the district’s various programs, ranging from mental illness, to students suffering from autism-related issues, to teen pregnancy programs and more.
The district’s newest program, AMIkids Manatee, addresses students in low-income families and how to break the cycle of “failure of poverty,” Greene said. It involves personalized counseling, goal setting and strategies to “move beyond whatever roadblocks and obstacles they’ve had in the past.”
Take Stock in Children has awarded 458 college scholarships since 1996 in Manatee County. The program begins working with students as early as sixth grade, “So we have time to work with them,” said Dill.
Family Resources offers free services to teens and young adults, including an emergency shelter for teens undergoing a crisis at home and need a safe place to ride out the proverbial storm.
We want families to know that when they are in crisis, we are there to help.
Amy Manning, community liaison for Family Resources
Manning highlighted the agency’s Safe2B-You&Me program for ages 15-25 where certified facilitators teach how to set personal and realistic relationship expectations, communicate feelings and boundaries and conflict resolution skills. Family resources also works with the district by offering truancy prevention programs, anger management, life skills and substance abuse education.
Centerstone is well known for its mental health programs, but those programs delve much deeper and branch out much further than what many realize. Whitfield said the programs involve everything from targeted case management, intensive treatment, short-term intervention and counseling programs that work with the entire family, as well as a student’s teachers.
We all need a support system and the mentors are sometimes the only consistent person in a child’s life.
Diana Dill, executive director of Take Stock in Children
All acknowledge the struggle to connect their resources to the community, getting more volunteers and educating the public on mental health issues.
“People need to be educated on mental health and not look at it as a bad thing,” Whitfield said. “If a child is struggling at an early age, take them into talk to someone. We have kids who are struggling and we need better education on the services that are out there for people.”
Manning said that connectivity is a primary concern for Family Resources.
“We want families to know that when they are in crisis, we are there to help,” Manning said. “People should think of us as a positive place that strengthens family and gives them a break and tools to be successful.”
Greene and Dill said mentors are their greatest need because it is a proven and reliable tool in helping children achieve success.
“We have a great success rate because we have great mentors,” Dill said. “Children want a mentor, they want someone to talk to, to help guide them and give them that individual attention. We all need a support system and the mentors are sometimes the only consistent person in a child’s life.”
To learn more about the Faith Based Alliance, email firstname.lastname@example.org.