Flip Flops & Flamingos fundraiser back Sept. 18

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2022

By Elizabeth G. Cook
For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — When coronavirus restrictions kept people from getting together for fundraisers, Greg Alcorn still raised money for Families First, reminding friends in an email blast about the agency’s important work.

“It’s in my blood,” Alcorn says.

His late mother, Edith, was one of the agency’s founders, along with Dr. Joel Goodwin and other people concerned about teen mothers, vulnerable children and struggling families.

This year, Alcorn and others who support Families First’s work can gather in person again at the sixth Flip Flops & Flamingos fundraiser. The beach-themed party will be held at the F&M Trolley Barn on Sept. 18.

Alcorn, CEO and owner of Global Contact Services, is immediate past president of Families First. He sums up the nonprofit’s impact in one word: “Vital. I just think it’s vital.”

What started in 1986 as an effort to prevent adolescent pregnancy has expanded through the years to address multiple issues that challenge young parents — from helping young children develop social and emotional skills (Second Step), to providing a safe space where estranged parents and their children can safely meet (Visitation Station).

Before the pandemic, the agency was serving about 4,000 people a year. Now it’s building back as schools and families ease into group situations again. About 2,500 people were reached last year.

The last Flip Flops & Flamingos event was held in 2019. Another was set to go in 2020, but the pandemic intervened — and impacted the agency in more ways than one.

Jeannie Sherrill, executive director, says COVID-19 restrictions put more wear and tear on fragile families. While some proved to be resilient, others struggled. The agency saw increases in mental health problems, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“Kids and families were in crisis in many, many ways,” Sherrill says. Even though pandemic shutdowns are over, the financial and emotional damage is ongoing, heightening the need for supportive networks.

“What we learned was we still have a job to do. You think a child’s social-emotional skills are good. Then this happens, and you find out they’re not.”

Families First strives to strengthen families by providing information, education, prevention and support services, with an emphasis on using best practices. Programs fall into three categories: Teen Parenting, Court-based Services and Education.

Teen parenting

  • Teen Parenting Program Initiative: This home-based service is for young women who are pregnant or have a child and are enrolled in school or a GED program. Using the Parents as Teachers curriculum, it ensures high school graduation and promotes child development.
  • Good Beginnings for Teen Parents: This school-based program provides twice-a-month group meetings for teen parents to promote positive parenting and child development.


  • Second Step in elementary schools: This bullying prevention program helps preK, kindergarten and first-grade students develop social and emotional skills. It reduces aggressive and bullying behaviors as it helps children become resilient.

“That’s our most cost-efficient program,” Sherrill says. “For less than $100 we can give a child a year’s worth of weekly social-emotional skills classes.”

News reports of youths who have been bullied and then later shoot people convince Sherrill of the need for the program. Tests administered before the sessions start and at the end of the years prove Second Step’s effectiveness, she says.

  • Second Step Early Learning: This Head Start-based program helps children as young as 2 in Rowan and Cabarrus counties. It aims to strengthen their ability to learn, have empathy, manage emotions, make friends and solve problems.
  • Strengthening Families: Available in a group format as well as home visits, this program helps build stronger relationships between children ages 6-17 and their parents. It helps them create family cohesion and improve communication.
  • The Incredible Years: For parents of children ages 3-5 and 6-11, this program gives participants tools in the areas of discipline, communication and child-directed play. It encourages academic success, responsibility and routine, effective limit setting and more.

Court based

  • Court Child Care Center: This is a safe and nurturing place with a playful atmosphere for children while their parents or guardians conduct business in the courthouse.
  • Supervised Visitation: Also known as Visitation Station, this is a place for safe exchanges and supervised visits between children and non-custodial parents or other family members. It operates in Rowan and Cabarrus.

Sherrill says the United Way has been a wonderful partner, helping Families First expand and sustain its offerings. Families First uses best practices — methods that research has found to produce positive results. That fits right in with the United Way’s impact model of funding.

Families First lost a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission for the Visitation Station. The state supported the program for 15 years before changes at the federal level caused that to stop. Last year, Sherrill says, county commissioners from Rowan and Cabarrus agreed to make up the difference. That budget cycle goes through the end of September, and she hopes the two counties will help again.

Some of the agency’s grants require matching funds in the vicinity of $20,000 to $33,000. That’s where Flip Flops and Flamingo funds come in handy. Thanks to sponsorships, the event raises about $90,000 a year, according to Sherrill.

“This community is incredible,” she says. People have been generous with their support.

Esther Atkins-Smith, the board member leading this year’s fundraiser, is a believer in the way Families First impacts families.

“I have a heart for those organizations that provide services to families, particularly children, that will better their quality of life,” Atkins-Smith says. “Families First is an organization that tackles this holistically.”

The fundraiser on Sept. 18 runs from 5 to 8 p.m. It will include food, beverages, a DJ and a photo booth. There will also be a silent auction.

Atkins-Smith says that, though donations are crucial, the importance of the fundraiser goes beyond money.

“Flip Flop and Flamingos is a way for us to let everyone know about the great things Family First is doing in Rowan and Cabarrus counties,” she says, “and to have a lot of fun.”

Want to go?

Event: Flip Flops & Flamingos

To benefit: Families First NC-Inc.

Date: Sunday, Sept. 18

Time: 5-8 p.m.

Where: F&M Trolley Barn

Attire: Beach casual

Tickets: $20, for ages 21 and up, available from board members, the Families First office (in the former Wells Fargo building on South Main) and at the door

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