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Reaching out

Local playgroup looking to expand its services

THIS LOCAL YOUNGSTER was all smiles during a Little Pesaukees playgroup session at the Alton Bay Community Center last week. The popular group is seeking to expand its services by establishing a family resource center in Alton. Brendan Berube. (click for larger version)
May 18, 2010
ALTON — With their weekly playgroup sessions still going strong, the organizers of Alton's Little Pesaukees program recently began exploring the idea of expanding the scope of the services they provide to local parents.

In an e-mail to The Baysider on May 4, Pam Mott announced that after receiving feedback from other community organizations interested in helping to stabilize the playgroup and expand the services it provides, she and fellow Little Pesaukees facilitator Laura Macstravic had decided to look into the possibility of opening a family resource center.

"We are trying to start a contagion, if you will," she wrote. "[Little Pesaukees] is, at this point, taking on a life of its own, which is encouraging.

"The more we involve the community," she added, "the more we will be able to do for its families."

There are currently 10 family resource centers throughout the state of New Hampshire dedicated to building stronger communities and healthy families by offering a wide range of programs and services to struggling parents.

During the playgroup's Thursday morning session last week, Mott and Macstravic met with Allan Robichard from the Lakes Region United Way, Karen Welford from the Laconia-based Giggles and Grins Resource Center, Alton Central School pre-school/special education teacher Joan Rees, and Dick Wallace of Alton's Community Youth Activities group to discuss ways to get the ball rolling on a resource center.

Mott explained that she and Macstravic had envisioned a facility where local parents would be able to find daycare, food and supplies (such as diapers), mental health services, and other support programs.

The pair, she said, were also recently contacted by a local resident who expressed interest in the idea of selling children's clothing on consignment at the resource center.

Their ultimate goal, she added, is to provide a "network of support" for families in need, and prevent incidents of child abuse and neglect in the local area.

Robichard encouraged Mott and Macstravic to find out what resources are available to them in terms of community organizations and state agencies, and investigate how funding from those resources could be used to support a family resource center in Alton.

"It's important to look at a continuum of services," he said, explaining that the children who participate in programs like Little Pesaukees need access to additional support as they get older in order to become productive members of the community.

Rees said she has been approached by a number of struggling single parents and couples who had a hard time finding support in the local area.

With only two daycare centers in Alton — Kim's Kiddie Korner and Joyful Footsteps, both of which, she said, are "always full" — and limited space available in her own pre-school program, Rees said many families, particularly those with children in need of special services, often find themselves left out in the cold with nowhere to turn for help.

With no public transportation system available in the immediate area (making it difficult for families with only one vehicle or no vehicle at all to access the resource centers in Concord, Pittsfield, or Laconia) and no Head Start program in Alton, she added, teen mothers and the "pockets of poor" who tend to go unnoticed by the larger community have a particularly hard time finding the help they need.

Commenting that Huggins Hospital of Wolfeboro has yet to break ground on the construction of its Wellness Center at the traffic circle, Robichard asked Mott whether she had approached anyone at the hospital about the idea of providing space for a resource center at the new facility.

Citing his own past experience with Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, Robichard said hospitals are usually eager to find ways to reach out to the community.

Mott said she had considered approaching Huggins, but wanted to take things "one step at a time."

With timing potentially of the essence, depending on when Huggins plans to begin construction, however, Robichard urged Mott and Macstravic to contact the hospital.

"I'm just worried that an opportunity might be missed," he said.

Wallace agreed, suggesting that "it might be worthwhile" to contact Huggins.

"That's where you should be," he said. "Lay the groundwork."

Robichard suggested that a luncheon meeting with officials from Huggins, school board members and school administrators, and other "decision makers" might be the most appropriate next step.

"Kick something in that puts [your vision] on other people's radar screens," he said, offering to use his connections to help Mott and Macstravic organize the event.

Rees offered to approach Alton Central's Principal, Bonnie Jean Kuras, about the idea of holding the luncheon in the school cafeteria.

Anyone interested in assisting Mott and Macstravic in their efforts to establish a resource center is encouraged to contact Alton's Parks and Recreation Department at 875-0109.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

Varney Smith
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