Regina Oglesby didn’t set out to be a Neighborhood Leader but was recruited by Family Connection shortly after she volunteered to help Winterville Elementary with a computer roll out.
Since then, Regina has worked with families one-on-one, organized events that support education, nutrition and healthcare, and worked to connect parents with a multitude of community resources.
Regina sat down with FC-CIS to discuss community needs and success stories as well as what has been her most rewarding work as a Neighborhood Leader.
FC-CIS: Thank you for being here, Regina. From your perspective, what day-to-day challenges do families in our area face?
REGINA: Families face economic challenges in Athens-Clarke County. Many people are working odd hours, holding multiple jobs- and they still aren’t comfortable.
FC-CIS: What types of people do you work with as a Neighborhood Leader?
REGINA: Great people. People who want quality care for their children, excellent schools, a great climate for their kids. I think the biggest thing- as far as differences and challenges- is definitely the economic challenge. Many times it’s the need for a break. For childcare to not be so expensive. For there to be more resources with childcare hours, and maybe more diverse activities for children to be involved. But, I think everyone has the same goals and aspirations for healthy, happy kids.
FC-CIS: How does your role contribute to supporting these families in their quest for all of the things you mentioned?
REGINA: I do my best to follow up with families and to direct them to agencies in the community that can help. There is support, but I think people try their best to live normal lives and not to feel as though they are ‘needy’ or have to go to those resources for charity.
Sometimes working parents- whether it is a 2-parent family or a single parent- find themselves disconnected or isolated. If they are new to town or have no family- it is nice just to be a friendly person to parents who are too wrapped up in work and everything else.
I talked to a mom this week, and she’s in the Reserves, so her parents keep her 3-year-old while she’s away every month. We talked about behavior and how transitions can affect a child.
I stress to parents that it’s important to find support and activities. It makes for a better lifestyle and parents can feel better knowing they’ve done something for their kids.
FC-CIS: As one of your community activities, you took a group of parents and kids on a trip to the grocery store. How does that benefit families?
REGINA: Yes. We had a small grant to do family engagement, and I was working at the time with the extension service doing nutrition education for adults. I saw in a workshop how important it is to get children into the grocery stores and how you can use any environment as a learning environment. So, we just had a grocery store trip. We had lots of parents and kids come out to Publix, and we toured the store, had fliers on healthy nutrition, and games and activities identifying colors and numbers. We call it “literacy nutrition” and were feeding the children different words and different foods and food groups.
Parents expressed interest in smart shopping and budgeting, how they divide the aisles with whole foods and how to keep kids out of the cookie aisle.
It is essential as a Neighborhood Leader that I am involved in or hosting activities within the community at the grocery stores, libraries, community centers, sharing resources…
FC-CIS: What is your most rewarding work since becoming a part of Family Connection’s Neighborhood Leaders program?
REGINA: The most rewarding time for me was when Neighborhood Leaders were asked to be involved in the Athens Wellbeing Project- along with the university’s students of social work. We were able to knock on hundreds of doors in the Winterville area and meet people with children and without children- adults who have been in the community for years- and hear their experiences and their views. Also, what they’d like to see to help the community grow.
FC-CIS: Neighborhood Leaders are embedded in the areas they serve, but you are also at the table when other leaders from various entities gather to discuss solutions for issues in our community.
REGINA: Since joining Neighborhood Leaders, I’ve enjoyed being able to be involved in discussions on topics such as being “trauma-informed” and helping others become more “trauma aware.”
I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in discussions over nutrition and childcare quality- subjects for families.
That’s what Family Connection specializes in- inviting people in the community to bring info and resources. There’s not always a resource like this in neighborhoods.
FC-CIS: Why do you think this model is so successful when it comes to engaging families?
REGINA: When it comes to being a Neighborhood Leader, I’m just a parent. I’m not working with the school system in any way. I’m not working with DFCS. It’s just lending an ear and getting the information to agencies that can help. I always make myself available and visible.
As long as we’re in the communities, that’s just another way to be visible and an opportunity for parents to be visible and engaged.
FC-CIS reaches from Wellness to Safety to Gang Prevention. I feel like they are hitting a lot of areas.
To find out more about Neighborhood Leaders, please visit the Neighborhood Leaders page.