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UCPS employees tour, learn about United Way agencies

Union County Community Shelter Interim Executive Director Derrick Burnell explains the guidelines for which a person can stay in the shelter.

A group of about 20 UCPS employees visited three United County crisis intervention-type agencies, gathering information in preparation for this year’s United Way campaign.

“Our purpose today is to educate folks at the school level so they can see examples of United Way agencies and what good they do right here in the community,” said UCPS Director of Employee Relations Ken Roess, who is coordinating the school system’s United Way campaign. “They will then be able to take that information back to the schools and let people know what their United Way dollars are doing.”

Last week’s (June 27, 2010) trek was the first of at least three that will help school system employees actually see examples of some of the things that United Way agencies help fund.

The employees visited the Union County Community Shelter, the United Family Services and Turning Point of Union County.

“We have a tendency to run out for aid in other countries like Haiti, without hesitation, but we tend to forget the urgency of help needed in our own country, in our own community, right on our doorstep,” said one of the participants, Cornelia Carter, a UCPS NCWISE data manager and bookkeeper. “I appreciated seeing the agencies first-hand and hearing what amazing services are offered through them.”

First on the list was the Union County Community Shelter. Derrick Burnell, the shelter’s interim executive director, said there has been an increase in the number of families at the shelter in light of these tough economic times. At the same time, he said there has been a decrease in the amount of food being donated to the shelter.

Burnell said although things are beginning to pick up, he continues to have to turn people away on a daily basis for lack of room. “I don’t like turning people away,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking, when you have to do that.”

There are five beds in the women’s quarters and 14 beds in the men’s quarters. The shelters stays pretty much at capacity. “This is not a place just to come sleep,” Burnell said. “This is transitional housing. It’s a place to turn your life around and become successful.”

The only time a person is accepted at the shelter is if he or she is able to work and is currently seeking employment. There is a maximum of six months that someone can stay at the shelter.

“Our main purpose is to take someone who has fallen onto hard times and help them, guide them back to a point where they can go back to society, they can go back to work, and become productive,” Burnell said.

Burnell said the shelter staff works with residents to try to get them back on track, trying to find out everyone’s talents in order to help them find the job better suited to them. “Everyone who comes through that door receives a different case management plan,” Burnell said. “It’s client-centered. You might not work well in a conventional job. So, my goal is to tailor your skills in order to get you into something where you can grow, make money and have a happy productive life.”

At Turning Point, a shelter for battered women and children, there are 10 bedrooms, allowing 42 women and children to reside there. Counseling is offered and includes such things as career empowerment, legal advocacy and assistance in attaining restraining orders.

They also help battered women develop a “safety plan” that advices them how to react in the event they encounter their abuser at the mall or in the event she is being followed.

At United Family Services, Pamela Caskey, the South Region director, led the group through the facility and explained the many services they provide. These include counseling and education in such things as grief and loss, divorce, family communication, parenting and depression. Group education is offered in anger management, self esteem, parenting and coping with divorce.

Caskey said they also offer crisis intervention and advocacy for rape victims, and sexual assault and child abuse prevention, as well as the Tree House Children’s Advocacy Center, that offers a child- and teen-friendly environment for abused children and their families while medical evaluations, forensic interviews, and counseling are under way. The center also assists in advocacy and court education.

For those who suffer financially in these tough economic times or for those just trying to get out of debt, United Family Services also offers Consumer Credit Counseling.

Last week’s tour was the first of three scheduled trips to United Way agencies that will be held for UCPS employees.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Aug 04, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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