The Spalding Collaborative is working to get the message out about what it is and what it does.
Brett Bell, chairman of the Collaborative, said he wants to bring greater attention to the Collaborative.
“Basically, we’re here to connect partners to the community,” Bell said, “like people in need with resources.”
The Collaborative does not directly provide services, but connects people with those resources.
“We don’t serve — we’re not a service provider,” said Collaborative Executive Director Regina Abbott. “We work with those who are serving, working with community partners for a stronger plan to address a community need.”
The services are funneled through and overseen by the Collaborative, Abbott said.
The Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Children and Families was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1998 and is a part of the Georgia Family Connection — a statewide initiative that cultivates public and private collaboration at the local level, and is in all 159 counties.
Family Connections is funded by the state to provide coordination, Bell said, “and is the only one in the nation. There’s nothing like anywhere else in the country.”
The Spalding Collaborative serves as the local decision-making body, bringing community partners together to develop, implement, and evaluate plans that address the serious challenges facing Georgia’s children and families. As a part of Family Connections, Bell said, “we can learn from other counties so we’re not reinventing the wheel.”
The Collaborative, Bell said, “is kinda like the wheel that goes round and round and the partners are the spokes.”
There are about 75 local partners including government agencies, businesses, non-profits and community organizations which provide services to the community.
The mission of the Collaborative is “to improve the well-being and health conditions of families through a collaborative system of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual supports.” Its vision is that “all citizens of Spalding County are safe, educated, healthy and community-minded.”
There are three areas of focus, Bell said, “healthy children, healthy youth and a healthy community.”
Abbott said, “what we’re best known for is the Backpack for Kids. We were allocated to serve 250 kids and have reached that.”
The program provides food for students in need to take home for the weekend, so they have meals other than the breakfast and lunch provided at school.
Abbott said the program has not been expanded beyond the current seven schools they are committed to.
“I don’t want to take on what we can’t sustain,” she said. “We’re able to raise enough each year to have full funding for the next school year when the school year starts.”
Abbott said, “each year students have to re-enroll and we have a set amount for each student. If there is some we don’t use at one school we can shift it to another school.”
Bell said, “we do accept sponsorships for a student, for $235 a year.”
Another big focus is mentoring in the local schools, Bell said, “with 76 mentees and 41 mentors. Some of the mentors double up or work in groups,” with group examples including the Anne Street Elementary School’s golf and chess clubs, the running club at Atkinson Elementary School and Impact Racing Ministry.
“Mentoring,” Bell said, “is a great opportunity to pour into a young person’s life. It’s an opportunity to pull somebody along the way.”
For more information on the Spalding Collaborative, its partners and its resource directory, visit http://spalding.gafcp.org/.