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South County Family Support and Resource Center offers range of services to all residents

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Mitch Traphagen photo
The South County Family Support and Resource Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday at their new location at 3030 East College Avenue in Ruskin. Pictured above are Abby Evert, director of Family Support Services at Catholic Charities, Sheila Lopez, chief operating officer at Catholic Charities, Luanne Panacek, Ph.D, chief executive officer of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Maria Negron, Family Support & Resource Center director. Not shown is Rev. John F. McEvoy of St. Anne Church, also instrumental in the new center.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
mitch@observernews.net

RUSKIN — The South County Family Support & Resource Center held a grand opening celebration last week for their new location in Sun Point Shopping Center at 3030 East College Avenue in Ruskin. One of five such resources centers in Hillsborough County, the new office brings together for the first time in South Hillsborough an array of family services, from the use of computers and computer classes to training programs for parents and first aid classes, including CPR training. In addition to a computer lab that includes use of a fax machine, telephone and photocopier, the new office also has space for community meetings as well as a play area for children.

The new office is more centrally located to all South Hillsborough communities than the previous office at 14th Avenue SE in Ruskin.

“It’s a wonderful place in a great neighborhood where anyone can come to participate in all of the different kinds of services that we have,” said South County Family Support & Resource Center director Maria Negron. “We have three main services. Services in child development, services in self-sufficiency including computers to access information or gain job skills, and we also have health and safety classes which are very important in helping our family members and other people in the community.”

The new center ties together services offered by other individual and family organizations, such as those offered by Catholic Charities, for the first time in South Hillsborough. Prior to this time, services offered by other organizations were scattered throughout the area.

“We all work together here to provide services to people and families in the community,” Negron said.

Health and safety classes are available to all residents of South Hillsborough through the center.

“We are providers for CPR classes and certification, alongside St. Joseph Hospital,” said center manager Aniria Wilson. “If people are interested in any health and safety classes, they just need to call 813-870-4747 to register.”

There is no cost to attend classes and there are no charges associated with any service within the center.

“The resource center is available to any child and any family that resides in Hillsborough County,” Negron added. “It is important for people to know that all services that we provide are absolutely free of charge. There are no criteria for eligibility for our services.”

In addition to training and support services, the center also provides counseling services.

“We are involved in the collaborative with our REACH counseling program as well as our Hillsborough Kinship Care and Parents Partners program,” said Abby Evert, director of Family Support Services for Catholic Charities. “This is unique in that not many agencies have the opportunity to bring this many programs together under one roof. It is a wonderful opportunity for all of South County.”

The programs and services offered at the South County office has been derived from input by area families as part of the Family Advisory Council. The bilingual staff is available to work with families on an individual basis.

The office is funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and managed by Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg. Fiscal management is provided by the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County.

Resource partners include the Children’s Home, Inc., Bright Beginnings, the Child Abuse Council, St. Joseph’s Hospital Advocacy Center, the Family Enrichment Center, Mental Health Care, Inc. and the Sylvia Thomas Center.

REACH Counseling services are funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and managed by Catholic Charities. The Kinship Care and Parents as Partners programs are funded by the Children’s Board, managed by Catholic Charities with fiscal management by YMCA Partners of Hillsborough.

The South County Family Support & Resource Center is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The center closes on Mondays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for staff meetings.

For more information and a calendar of programs and classes, visit wwwfamilysupporthc.org or call 813-641-5600.

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