Terri Evans is a busy lady. On most days, the executive director of the Coastal Coalition for Children can be found flitting between meetings while keeping a watchful eye on the organization’s programming.
After all, those are the backbone of the social service organization. It is the purpose of Evans’ daily mission, the heart of which is keeping children safe and families happy.
“I think our most important distinction among nonprofits in Glynn County is that we are focused expressly on preventing neglect and child abuse,” she said.
The organization offers three programs: FirstSteps, Healthy Families and the Grandparent Connection. Each one works by connecting case workers and parents or guardians in an effort to make sure they offer their children everything they need.
“We have our family support workers, who go into the homes weekly to help mothers understand the importance of bonding with their babies, for example. We can give them baby-proofing safety kits for instance ... but all of it is really working with the family to make sure that a child is on target developmentally,” Evans said. “If they are not, we can refer them to the appropriate physician or agency. Our goal is to help and support the family.”
For grandparents, the coalition offers an eight-week program that helps teach them how to regain some of their parenting skills.
“Grandparents raising grandchildren is an epidemic, nationally. It is certainly here. What we do with these grandparents is we offer a course called Parenting the Second Time Around,” she said.
The results — regardless of the program — are positive. Parents and grandparents learn or re-learn techniques to care for the children while being supported by the coalition.
“Another thing we do is host gatherings that are just peer to peer. It is a social opportunity for moms who oftentimes feel isolated because they are home with their baby so much,” Evans said. “Many of our moms, most of them are single parents. That is one of the criteria that we look for because they can benefit from our services. We start with a screening process in which we identify these types of characteristics. We also look for mothers who were neglected or abused as children or those with mental health issues. They can also benefit from our services.”
The family support workers keep close contact with participants in the Healthy Families programs. Once the programs are complete, they all celebrate together. Then, they direct families to the next step.
“They become very close to these families, so they all come to the graduations in November of our Healthy Families participants. Then we help to develop a transition program after they have been with us for three years. It could be HeadStart or Pre-K. We help them find what’s next,” she said.
Of course, the Coastal Coalition for Children needs money to make these programs work. While they receive state and federal grants, as with most nonprofit, the money never seems to be enough.
That’s why, Evans said, they have come up with an annual fundraiser to help them make up the difference. Their biggest event, the ever-popular Taste of the Vine, is slated to be held from 6-8:30 p.m., Oct. 22, at the Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island.
In addition to wine and food, attendees will get to bid on auction items from an array of sources. Evans is particularly excited — it will be her first time attending the event as the head of the organization.
“This is our 13th year, and it is extremely important to us, because we — like a lot of nonprofits — get grants from local, state and federal sources, but some of our programs aren’t covered, like our Grandparents Connection. So it is very important to get money for that, and just general operating costs,” she said.
The event is also more of a causal party than a fancy gala, she said. While attendees will certainly be able to sample exquisite food and drinks, it is a laid-back atmosphere that many appreciate.
“It is really fun and relaxed. We always know that the Georgia Sea Grill, who has been a wonderful partner in this for years, will do a great job,” she said.
“And of course, there are the auction items which span from really great experiences like two nights on Little St. Simons Island, to things you use every day, like dry cleaning and storage units. It’s pretty cool.”
There is also a 50/50 raffle, where tickets will bring cash to an individual, as well as the organization.
“I’m very excited about it ... it’s my first year with them I’ve been here since January. We had planned to have it in September but then (Hurricane) Irma came so we moved it but I think it’s going to be even better,” she said.