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With community needs rising as a result of the pandemic, Inspira IMPACT’s Family Success Centers are a valuable community resource providing support for families in need. They offer an array of free services ranging from legal and housing assistance to parenting and financial courses to obtaining household items and food. We talked to Brenda Smaniotto, Administrative Director of Inspira’s IMPACT Program, to learn more about the Family Success Centers and how they have been able to service the community during the pandemic.
How have services changed since the onset of COVID-19?
BRENDA: Flexibility has been the name of the game during the pandemic. In the beginning of the pandemic, we focused a lot of our time doing wellness checks and personal outreach to our families to determine how we could best support them.
Since then, we have been able to convert many of our programs and activities to a virtual format to ensure the safety and well-being of our families. It also turns out that virtual programs are a pretty convenient way for our families to engage with us. So, going forward, we are offering both virtual and in person activities where possible.
Which services and programs have been your most popular services during the pandemic?
BRENDA: The community needs in Vineland and Commercial Township are very different from one another. Donna Cooper and Leahe Parmenter, the managers at each site, have done a great job customizing the programming and services at each center to fit the needs of their respective communities.
One of the most popular and successful workshops in the Monarch Family Success Center in Vineland has been “Financial Peace,” a nine-week course regarding financial literacy, where we educate families about debt management and budgeting. They also recently introduced a program providing guidance on how to search for employment in the pandemic and have received great feedback.
Nutrition courses are extremely popular at all of our centers, and our Commercial Township locations have partnered with NJ SNAP, a state nutritional assistance program, to produce classes educating families about how to prepare healthy, budget-friendly food. In addition to the educational component, we are fortunate to be able to offer the food at no cost. Both centers also offer a variety of free family bonding activities like crafts and painting, which have served as a great stress reliever for many of our families, particularly during the pandemic.
Who is eligible for services at Inspira’s Family Success Centers?
BRENDA: Inspira’s IMPACT program operates three Family Success Centers located in Vineland, Laurel Lake and Port Norris. Residents of those areas are eligible for our services. If you live outside of those areas, there are many other Family Success Centers spread throughout New Jersey that we are happy to connect you to.
How do participants achieve success?
BRENDA: Inspira’s Family Success Centers have proven to promote connection among family and community members thanks to our locally-based services. Every situation is different, which is why our participants have access to a community-wide network of resources, including:
- Computers, fax machines, telephones and Wi-Fi-based services
- Family enrichment activities and workshops
- Financial planning and budgeting
- Mortgage and rental assistance
- Employment assistance
- Legal assistance
- Nutrition, health and wellness classes
- Professional and personal goal setting and planning
Sometimes it’s just a matter of us connecting a family with the right resources in the community or just being there to listen, and that’s OK too. We treat our local families as if they are our own families.
How is the program funded?
BRENDA: Inspira’s Family Success Centers are part of a larger organization known as IMPACT, which is focused on helping families grow and promoting healthy living for all South Jersey residents.
Founded in 1998, the IMPACT programs started as a partnership between Inspira Medical Centers and Vineland Public schools and are funded by grants from the NJ Department of Children and Families. Today, this program has grown and now includes the Parent Linking Program, School Based Youth Services and our three Family Success Centers.
INSPIRA: How can someone join Inspira’s Family Success Centers?
BRENDA: The first step is to give us a call! We are happy to assist you or connect you with helpful resources where possible.