Families First has new digs, same important mission

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Mark Wineka


SALISBURY — After two months or so of settling in, staff and board members of Families First N.C. Inc. held an open house for its new location at 135 Mocksville Ave., Suite 2.

Families First is on the second floor of the Salisbury OBGYN offices. Executive Director Jeannie Sherrill said the nonprofit group could not have relocated without the help of the new landlords, Drs. Mike Mills and Lynn Anderson.

“Dr. Mills and Dr. Anderson made it possible,” Sherrill said.

For the past several years, Families First has been on the campus of Nazareth Children’s Home in Rockwell. The new Salisbury spot makes is more functional and convenient for staff and clients, Sherrill said.

Nazareth Children’s Home was a great landlord, “but we needed to be more visible,” Sherrill said.

“Getting this new space is a blessing,” she added. “It’s just laid out better for us.”

The second-floor space has about 14 rooms. They include staff offices, a lobby, records room, a kitchen/break room and a storage room for goods to help teenage parents.

“We’re thrilled; we’re excited,” said board chairwoman Lisa Markham. “… This would make Edith Alcorn proud.”

The late Alcorn could be considered the mother of the agency, Markham said, while Dr. Joel Goodwin probably qualifies as the father. Goodwin’s wife, Joyce, played a significant role in matching Drs. Mills and Anderson with the agency.

On March 31, Families First started the physical move of furniture and people from Rockwell to Salisbury. That same week, Sherrill said, Dr. Baxter Smith donated a house to the agency, which Families First will initially use as a storage annex.

The house is just two doors away, Sherrill said.

Families First, a United Way agency, says its mission is “to strengthen families by providing information, education, prevention and support services.”

To that end, Families First has education and teen parenting programs, along with court-based services that include a child care center in the Rowan County Courthouse.

At the Department of Social Services, Families First provides Visitation Station, which allows a place for safe exchanges and supervised visits between children and noncustodial parents or other family members.

Among Families First’s education programs are Second Step, a bullying prevention model; Strengthening Families, a model helping parents and their children from ages 6 to 17; Families and Schools Together, for families with pre-kindergarten children; Incredible Years, an advanced parenting group; and community-based rehabilitation services, a home visitation program helping parents with little ones (from birth to 3 years old) overcome developmental delays.

The teen parenting programs include Good Beginnings for Teen Parents and Teen Parenting Program Initiative, helping young parents graduate high school.

Markham noted that Families First is accredited by the Council on Accreditation.

“Basically, what that means is we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing well,” Joyce Goodwin said.

Markham said the accreditation is important to support grant applications to foundations such as the Duke Endowment and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

Sherrill said the next big thing ahead for the agency is a July update of its information technology hardware and software by Walser Technology Group.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.