COLLABORATING — Samantha McCoy, a parent educator with the Northern Panhandle Parents as Teachers, which functions under the umbrella of the Brooke Hancock Family Resource Network, and Bobbyjon Bauman, director of the Sycamore Youth Center, Steubenville, are collaborating to offer a series of free Single-Parent Skills Labs providing child care, a family-style meal and transportation on request. There are five topics presented during the course of five months at three locations: Steubenville, Wellsburg and Chester. For information or to register, call (304) 748-7850. -- Janice Kiaski
It’s tough enough raising a child, but if you’re going that journey alone for any number of reasons, it can be even more daunting. Electric Drain Auger
Samantha McCoy hopes to make the travels a bit more productive and manageable in some respects with the launch of Single-Parent Skills Labs she’s developed in her capacity as a parent educator with the Northern Panhandle Parents as Teachers, which functions under the umbrella of the Brooke Hancock Family Resource Network. The effort is in partnership with Bobbyjon Bauman, director of the Sycamore Youth Center at 301 N. Fourth St., Steubenville.
It’s a free program involving five timely topics spread across five months, beginning in March and continuing through July, with the sessions being offered in three communities — Steubenville, Wellsburg and Chester.
The goal is that participants will learn skills for self-reliance, build community and cultivate the support they need.
To make the sessions accommodating, each will include themed activities for children with certified providers so babysitting needs won’t keep participants away. A free family-style meal will be provided to all, and another covered-all-the-bases feature is that free transportation is available upon request.
Add to that no real residency stipulations, and as far as pre-registering by calling (304) 748-7850, it’s a nice gesture and helpful, but certainly not mandatory, according to McCoy. “I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t come for lack of registering.”
“We’re excited about it,” she said of the upcoming sessions that she and Bauman gave a preview of and explained how the idea took shape during a recent interview at the Sycamore Youth Center, the Steubenville location for the labs.
“It mainly came about out of conversations I had with other single parents, people I work with in my program and friends — just highlighting the struggle that it is,” McCoy said. “It’s already difficult to be a parent regardless of your situation or a grandparent if you’re raising a grandchild, but especially if you are a single parent or if you are the primary parent, say your partner travels for work and then more of the burden falls to you and resources are less accessible. We saw a gap in services and wanted to fill it,” said McCoy, who has worked as a parent educator for about five years.
Bauman met McCoy when she started attending Ohio Valley Youth Network meetings at the Sycamore Youth Center. Bauman is president of OVYN which has roundtable discussions in which all participants have an opportunity to share whatever upcoming programs and services they provide the youth of the area.
“She was just very excited about what was going on and wanted to see about the possibility of Sycamore partnering with her on starting a single-parent skills lab program,” Bauman said. “We dialogued about it for a six-month period of time, figuring out logistically the best times and the topics and then we met for planning session,” he said, noting the Sycamore Youth Center is helping with getting the word out to families and assisting with transportation and the facilities.
“Samantha has taken the ball and run with it,” Bauman emphasized.
“It’s going to happen in three locations so we can reach a pretty broad span of the Ohio Valley. We’re doing it at Sycamore Center to make it accessible for Jefferson County residents or Columbiana County residents,” McCoy said, adding, “We’re doing it at the Chester office in Hancock County so anyone in that area or surrounding area can come and also in Wellsburg so Brooke County is covered as well. You don’t have to be a resident of any specific location to come to the event but that’s the reasoning why we spaced it out the way we did,” she said.
The topics, dates, locations and presenters are:
HOME ORGANIZATION: Decluttering and making the most of your space, Dorothy O’Neil presenter;
March 2, Sycamore Youth Center, 301 N. Fourth St., Steubenville;
March 9, Brooke County Family Support Center, 1447 Main St., Wellsburg.
March 16, Hancock County Family Support Center, 598 Carolina Ave., Chester.
HOME AND CAR MAINTENANCE: How to fix what you can and when to seek help, Ryan Darrow presenter
April 13, Brooke County Family Support Center;
April 20, Hancock County Family Support Center.
CAREGIVER WELLNESS: Treating yourself like a person and a priority, a roundtable discussion,
May 11, Brooke County Family Support Center;
May 18, Hancock County Family Support Center.
BASIC PLUMBING and ELECTRIC: Snake drains, fix the garbage disposal or who to call for help, Aryn Carr presenter;
June 8, Brooke County Family Support Center;
June 15, Hancock County Family Support Center.
BUDGETS AND MEAL PLANS: Tips for saving and time and sanity, Jill Murray and Rita Hawkins, presenters;
July 13, Brooke County Family Support Center; and
July 20, Hancock County Family Support Center.
The times for the Sycamore Youth Center sessions run from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. For the Wellsburg and Chester locations, the times are from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There are no space issues associated with attending, according to McCoy.
“All the locations have adequate space,” she said.
The anticipation is that people are going to attend all of the sessions, but they are at liberty to pick and choose if a particular topic has more appeal or seems more applicable to their needs.
“There are so few restrictions. We would like it if you did them all because another aspect is building community support,” McCoy said. “We are hoping we can foster relationships between parents and caregivers — if three people come to every one, they will get to know each other, share a meal together, their kids will get to know their kids,” McCoy used as an example. “That’s an additional hope, but it’s certainly not restricted. If you only want to come to one, and it’s going to benefit you, that’s fine.”
“Samantha has done a great job with what I think is just eliminating so many barriers parents have that might keep them from this,” Bauman said.
“That was a main goal when I was creating the program — to eliminate barriers and make it incredibly accessible for people,” McCoy said, pointing out that while it is designed for single parents or primary caregivers, others could benefit and are welcome to come. That could be a grandparent or a foster care provider.
“Even just knowing you have the option of support makes a world of difference. If someone feels like they are alone in their parenting journey or life, knowing that this is available, that helps — that’s what we’re here for,” she said.
There’s definitely a need for the program, she assured.
“I see it in my line of work, I see it in friends and family, and I think a lot of the topics address specific needs but also just the need for accessible support in general,” she said. “We have a lot of organizations, we have a lot of programs and resources, but if a person can’t get to it than it’s not really benefiting them, so I am trying to make it as accessible as possible.”
The program is only possible with the help of volunteers, including the presenters, according to McCoy.
“Some of them are co-workers, some are friends and some are people who know a skill and who heard about the program and decided they wanted to help out,” she said, noting O’Neil, for example, is a friend and professional organizer. “She knows her stuff,” assured McCoy.
The home and car maintenance session will include how to check and change oil in a car and the basics of maintaining a vehicle. The basics of some home maintenance issues also will be covered.
McCoy identified the caregiver wellness session as “that’s a big one. Self-care is kind of a buzz word. I think it’s important to have conversations about what caregiver wellness looks like when it’s played out for someone in that position — whether they are busy and have other people with all these needs and so it’s difficult to prioritize your own needs. We’re talking basic stuff like eat breakfast or if you need to make a smoothie so you have food in your system, do that. Making sure people prioritize their own well being, go the doctors, is something hard to do especially if you’re working and single,” McCoy said.
“We intentionally made that a roundtable discussion because I’m a firm believer in people being their own experts. They know what their needs are,” McCoy said. “We’re giving people an opportunity to share — ‘This is what I’m dealing with, does anyone have any advice?’ But we also want to build kind of a panel — I’ve invited a couple friends in the mental health field, physical health field, so that we can have a range of perspectives,” she continued.
The budget and meal plans session will have a “knowledge-is-power approach,” according to McCoy. That would include assessing expenses if a budget is out of control and finding ways to manage with meal plans and meal prepping, for example.
The labs will be a learning opportunity for parents and a fun learning experience for their children attending, according to McCoy.
“Your kids are going to have a great time with this,” she said.
A couple of restaurants have agreed to donate meals for the labs, McCoy said, who noted the community can get involved, too, donating, for example, items that could be door prize gifts geared to the sessions. “There’s a lot of positive response from the community,” McCoy said. “We’re already getting people interested in coming and good feedback.”
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