“Lois” came to the Springfield Family Resource Center almost everyday, each time with three new job applications. She had just been through a difficult breakup and was left vulnerable, lonely, and a single mother of a four-month-old baby. Lois was frustrated and discouraged with her lack of employment experience and wasn’t sure how to build a resume, so staff at the Family Resource Center offered to help prepare her next application.
Together they built a resume, listing skills Lois hadn’t even thought to include. She realized she was an experienced housekeeper, caretaker, and driver. She received clothes for her interview from the Family Resource Center and called each prospective employer, asking to speak with the manager and insisting that they review her application. Lois’s persistence inspired others, and they came around to support her. Fellow community members empathized with Lois, many single parents themselves, and offered to take care of her baby while Lois looked for a job. Coordinators at the Springfield Family Resource Center were inspired by Lois’s perseverance and even more determined to help her succeed. In no time, Lois was getting called for interviews and received two job offers. Lois is now gainfully employed and providing for her daughter. Staff at the Family Resource Center served as guides for Lois, helping her leverage the skills she already had and advocate for herself. Lois is now an empowered provider and dignified employee.
Everyday Second Story is empowering men and women like Lois through the Family Resource Centers in Springfield and Culmore. Upon receiving a grant to assume management of the Fairfax County program in 2013, the opportunity felt like a natural fit to expand Second Story in the Community. Second Story had been working in these communities for 20 years and was already a partner at the existing family resource center.
The Family Resource Centers offer a diverse range of services. Community members have access to sewing, ESL, and preschool classes, and community meetings. Second Story’s community partners play an important role as well. A free clinic through George Mason University, Mason And Partners, provides services like school and sport physicals, referrals and well-woman care to help promote community health and George Washington University Mobile Mammography Program provides free mammograms. The Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center provides free legal consulting and sometimes lawyers even take up cases for clients, convicting labor traffickers to stop cycles of abuse and protect the rest of the community.
To aid hunger in the community, Second Story has also partnered with Food for Others which provides emergency food up to six times a year per family. The most valuable resource, though, lies in the generous and skilled staff and volunteers. On an average day about 30 people come into the Springfield Family Resource center to receive services, estimates Emma Garcia, Senior Program Associate at the center. Just last year over 13,000 people were served through the Culmore and Springfield Family resource Centers.
Most people drop in to receive help from a staff person. Sometimes they are simply looking to send or receive a fax, notarize a document, or receive a translation of their son or daughter’s permission slip, but some face much bigger issues — abuse, unemployment, and hunger. The staff serve as guides, sometimes offering services but always providing hope and direction. “People come here knowing there is a place they are going to find help,” explains Emma. “It’s like a bridge that connects them to everything.”
Though Second Story cannot respond to every challenge brought to the Family Resource Centers, the program coordinators are determined to support each person that drops in. “Whatever issue they have we help them solve. We connect them to the right services. They leave with a plan. Even if we cannot serve them, they know where to go for their services.”
Faithful to Second Story’s mission, support provided by the Family Resource Centers trickles down to young people as well. By assisting families, Second Story is fostering more supportive environments for young people. “Humans need several different support systems to survive,” explains Nandred Navarro, Vice President for Community Based Services at Second Story. “We work with the whole family and the whole system so that we can have a better reach.” The Family Resource Centers raise up another one of these important support systems: the family.
The family serves as the epicenter of a young person’s support system, the springboard for their success, the looking glass through which they understand their worth and identity. A young person’s family has the potential to be their strongest and most authentic support system. Strengthening families sparks a chain reaction — empowering youth, empowering their parents, and strengthening something more significant than one individual person. At Second Story we believe that when families flourish, individuals flourish, and by responding to the needs of the family we are completing the circle — strengthening communities and supporting young people even more effectively.