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My Turn: Rowan County's best-kept secret

By Lea Silverburg
I work for a non-profit agency in Rowan County that few seem to know much about.
I did not realize this until a few weeks ago when I sat in on a meeting as a substitute for a young friend. When introductions were made around the table, I announced my name and told everyone a little about the wonderful part-time job I have had since 2005. I explained that I worked for the Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council; it is a United Way agency, and some of the programs that are found under the umbrella of this agency cannot be found in most North Carolina counties except for Rowan. The people attending this meeting asked me what I did, what the programs were, and why they had never heard of this agency before. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to fill them in, and would like to acquaint some Salisbury Post readers about it also.
The Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council has a fairly long history in our county. It was formed under the auspices of the Rowan County Health Department in 1987, and in 1994 became an independent non-profit organization. Since 1996 it has been a participating member of the United Way of Rowan County.
My activity, the Second Step program, affects approximately 1,100 kindergarten and first grade students in seven schools in our county. There are two of us that go into K-1 classes for 30 minutes once a week and talk to classes about bullying, anger management, feelings, empathy and acting in a calm, positive manner. The children that we visit with are always happy to see us because they know that we always allow them the chance to talk about their personal experience and give them the opportunity to voice their opinion about the topic of the day. We sing songs together, listen to a story that has been carefully chosen to accompany the feeling or idea that we are discussing for the week and always start the half-hour lesson with a happy “hello” or “good morning.” Every student receives a lollypop and a small birthday card the week that their birthday occurs. It is a major event if a birthday occurs on the exact day of our visit, but even if it is in the next few days, there is hardly a child that does not know what happens during our visit.
This weekly visit to the 1,100 students we see does not cost the Rowan Salisbury Schools a single penny. It is totally funded by grants and money from the United Way. It is the most cost effective program around and is a “Best Practices” program and yet, it is in jeopardy because of the drying up of grant funding.
Another amazing program that few know about is the Court Child Care Center at the Rowan County Courthouse. It is open four mornings a week in a room that has been converted into a daycare facility. Parents who have business in court and may have to sit for several hours waiting to have their case heard can attest to the importance of this program. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to hold a court hearing with 10 to 12 children outside the courtroom running around, wanting to eat, play and go home? The Court Child Care program helps alleviate this problem, but it too may be soon be gone. Funding for it has been through grants.
Last but not least is the program called Visitation Station. Who can forget the terrible story of two boys who were taken to the home of their non-custodial parent for a visit and were murdered as they entered his home? Here in Rowan County we have a safe and secure place where estranged parents can bring their child or children for a visit or exchange with no worries about anyone’s safety. Rowan County is one of two counties in the entire state that have this program, and it is in danger of being closed due to funding difficulties.
There are a number of other wonderful programs that the Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council oversees. The problem is that very few people in our county know about these programs, thus the title, “The Best Kept Secret in Rowan County.” The people attending my meeting were surprised and amazed at the information they did not know, and agreed these programs should not fall by the wayside.
I hope that this information I have discussed will make the Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council a secret no more, and will provide an impetus to individuals and institutions to consider funding these important activities.
“My Turn” columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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