Herston speaks at Kiwanis Club of Valley

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2020

VALLEY — Chambers County Circle of Care Director Jonathan Herston talked about the Circle’s relocation into a larger building at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley.

For a number of years, the Circle had been located in the former Shawmut Cafeteria building just off Shawmut Circle. As the Circle grew in its ongoing efforts to address community needs, it was fast running out of space in the 6,000-square-foot building it was in. Last year, the decision was made to relocate into the former Family Physicians building in Medical Park.

At one time or another, Drs. David Fagan, Bob Mullins and Dan Guin had been in the building.

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The building is some 10,000 square feet in size – considerably larger than the original Circle location – but had been vacant for approximately seven years. When asked what had to be replaced, Herston replied, “Everything. It needed a new roof, a new HVAC system, lots of sheetrock had to go in, new painting and the bathrooms were a big problem.”

Having been a medical office, the restrooms were very small. There were 12 of them and they’ve since been replaced by two much larger men’s and women’s restrooms that are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (AWDA). Both are fully handicap accessible.

Moving in began in December and is just about complete.

“We have received the last of the furniture for the new building,” Herston said. “We are still settling in and are looking at a ribbon cutting and grand opening, probably in late March or early April.”

Herston likes the extra space the new building has.

“We now have the space for other organizations to have after-hours training or presentations,” he said. “We can easily get six to eight round tables in our main meeting room. It’s plenty of space for 50 people. We can schedule meetings for your organization, and there’s no charge for our community partners. We also have a family room. I am really excited about that. The family room can host family visits. Families coming there can de-stress and work through things in a comfortable setting.”

Chambers County DHR has access to the family room for supervised visits.

Something new in the Medical Park Circle building is a break room.

“We didn’t have one before, and it’s nice,” Herston said. “We have a resource office that’s available to the community, especially for agencies on the other end of the county. We are excited to be able to do this.”

Herston sees the Circle’s role is that of being a difference maker for struggling families in the local area.

“We look to bring positive long-term outcomes for local families,” he said. “When families thrive, children do too.”

A major problem faced by struggling families involves lack of transportation. For some time now, the Circle has attempted to address this through its Care Van program.

“We have three vans now but one driver,” Herston said. “We provide transportation for children and expectant mothers who need ways to get to medical appointments. We make trips throughout the local area to Opelika and occasionally to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.”

The problem with going to Birmingham is that cuts down on trips that need to be made locally.

The Circle is currently partnering with Auburn University on a marriage and family therapy class.

“We’ve needed this for a long time,” Herston said. “We are offering it from noon until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.”

There’s also partnership with Southern Union State Community College on a workforce development program emphasizing soft skills people need to excel in the workplace. There’s 48 hours of content, and participants will have the opportunity to interview with representatives of local industries. This can lead to jobs that pay $14-$15 an hour with full benefits.

“This can be transformational for families that are struggling,” Herston said. “We are looking to work with local schools in raising the level of parenting across the board. We have been able to dedicate some staff to doing this.”

The Circle is being assisted by an advisory council made up of local entrepreneurs. “They can offer advice on what works and what are the roadblocks in starting a new business,” he said.

On Saturday, March 14, the Circle will be having a relationship retreat. It’s for married couples who are seeking better communication and problem solving. For further information, contact Brad Thomas at the Circle at (334) 768-4091 or go to www.thecirclecares.com. On Friday, April 17 there will be a Hope Walk.

“This is going to be a great event to attend,” Herston said. “It will raise awareness of child-related issues.”

The Circle also has classes and workshops for those in the 16-24 age group who are struggling to find the right employment.

The Circle’s primary service area consists of all of Chambers County and West Point. “We can help people from Georgia as long as we are doing it in the state of Alabama,” Herston said.

Circle representatives have gone to local schools to discuss such issues as bullying, date violence and human trafficking.

“Teachers and the students need to know what to look for when it comes to human trafficking,” Herston said. “We discuss this in local high schools.”