Circle of Care director explains non-profit’s role in community

Published 5:06 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

VALLEY — Chambers County Circle of Care Executive Director Jonathan Herston believes that every child deserves an opportunity to learn, and the best way to ensure that is to strengthen the family unit.

Herston talked about this at a recent meeting of the Valley Lions Club. He said that there are five areas that are key to a child’s development and their capacity to learn: (1) being safe (2) having basic resources such as food, clothing and shelter (3) financial stability (4) healthy relationships and (5) general wellbeing.

“At the Circle of Care, we are focused on those five areas,” Herston said. “A lot of our programs fall under this. We are working to ensure that they have healthy relationships. Sometimes kids don’t do well in school because they have a medical condition, and sometimes they are in at-risk situations.”

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For those who have medical conditions or are not in good financial situations, a van is available that can get those people to their medical appointments.

“We take expectant moms to their appointments in Opelika.” Herston said. “We’ve taken children to the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.”

Herston has been the Circle’s executive director since his predecessor, Gloria Hull, retired in 2016.

The organization currently has plans to move into a new building.

“We’ve been out of space for the past five years,” Herston said. “It will cost over $300,000 for us to do what we need to do. A $15,000 ADECA grant was a nice Christmas present. It allowed us to replace some HVAC units.”

The building in Valley Medical Park where the Circle is relocating needs some new restrooms and other basic needs.

“We have applied for grants, and we have an ongoing Care Campaign,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to give, to have a perpetual impact.

He said the organization will need about $180,000 just to get in the doors, due  to coming into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

At present, the Circle has 13 full-time people on the staff and two part-time employees.

One of the more beneficial classes offered by the Circle of Care works to strengthen the relationship between couples.

The Circle also offers families the opportunity to discuss necessary situations with case managers individually and confidentially. The case manager will spend time learning about the family’s goals and needs. They will develop a personalized plan to help the family meet those goals.

Parenting resources include:

  •  Home visitation. This allows parents to learn about better care for children during their developmental stage.
  • Small wonders. This is available to Medicaid-eligible mothers/parents as a way to inform them on proper prenatal car, infant mortality and service coordination for parents and their young children.
  • Fatherhood. This empowers men with children to be the best dad they can be through recreational events and skill development classes that allow dads to bring a plus-one to that parents and caregivers can coordinate events.

Youth-based resources include:

  • Parenting education. Classes to high school students focus on parenting skills needed to raise a baby in a safe, stable home.
  • Marriage/relationship education. These classes promote positive relationship skills designed to increase the number of healthy marriages.
  • Safe students. This partners with local schools to focus on school-based child abuse prevention.

The Circle’s adult resources include GED classes and Work Keys certification.

The Circle’s Young Adult Employment Services (YES!) helps those in the 16-24 age group attain their academic goals and to receive employment training. It’s in partnership with the Alabama Career System and the Workforce Division of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

A Relationship Education and Enrichment program offers a series of classes designed to improve the quality of marriages and relationships. The Circle of Care’s Business Resource Center is a partnership with the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We offer space, specialized software and a library of resources for those who are thinking about, or are in the early stages of, starting their own business,” Herston said. “An office can be reserved in advance and the resources used for writing resumes, writing business plans, conducting meetings or doing research to further learning and to make your business a success.”