Outreach event focuses on art, family

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By Neil Strebig

The smell of freshly grilled hot dogs filled the basement of 3113 Brighton Rd., as kids decorated tree houses, made their own edible arrangements, and played corn hole on boards they hand-painted.

Art, family, and fun were plentiful this past weekend at the Providence Connections. The center, which focuses on a number of child and family support services, hosted an outreach program on Saturday to help bring local families together.

“We know it’s hard being a parent sometimes and when you add additional stressors it becomes even more challenging,” Samantha Ellwood, Executive Director at the Providence Family Center said. “We’re here to offer support and services to family, to make the job of being a parent a little bit easier, and have a rich experience for the whole entire family.

“So if something like today gives parents a way to get out and do something for free with their kids and just keep them engaged and happy for the day its good for all of them.”

The event was heavily coordinated by Russ Stratton, whose wife Colleen is chair of the parent-advisory committee. The committee is “very valuable” to the Providence Connection according to Site Director Tish Donze. The committee plays a vital role in organizing events, structuring programs, and even hiring staff members.

Stratton and his wife saw this past weekend as a great opportunity to use art to help connect families in a constructive and creative manner.

“Art is so important,” Russ said, who described the parent-advisory and one of Providence Connection’s main goals is to “make being a parent easier.”

Russ helped design a number of props being used at the event including the corn hole boards, which the kids finished painting, and the hand-crafted home plate that was being raffled off at the end of the event. Russ sees art as an important creative outlet for children and considers it a shame that many schools are seeing art programs “disappear.” In his words, every child needs to “experience art.”

The Stratton’s, along with the aid of the fellow parent-advisors, helped bring in a number of arts and crafts tables for children and parents to partake in including a sunglasses-making table courtesy of the Mattress Factory and a free book table in association with Reading is Fundamental.

“Lot of the kids we serve don’t have home libraries and anytime you can get a book in their hands, it’s a good thing,” said Tess Wilson, Books-for-keeps outreach coordinator at RIF. Wilson described parents as children’s “first teachers,” and said they try to bring at least 50-100 books to events like these. They encourage kids to read at home, expand their home libraries, and for parents to help teach their children the importance of reading.

“Having relationships with home libraries and fun gatherings is what we aspire to do,” Wilson said.

Providence kinship parent and former art teacher, Kendra Foster, even hosted her own table of craft-building.

“I try to come to all the events and volunteer whenever possible,” Foster said.

Though this Saturday’s program relied on art and creative craftsmanship to inspire children, it is only a brief glimpse into what the Providence Family Center does.

The Center aims to “build relationships and teamwork” according to Donze, who helps oversee many of the site’s programs including parent-children relationship therapy classes, head-start programs for children ages 3 to 5, and in-home visits for families who qualify for the exemplary off-site service.

“[Our main goal] is to strengthen families and enrich their lives,” Ellwood said. “Once you help strengthen family, you strengthen the community.”

The Light of Life Ministries donated food and beverages for the event.

For more information on assistance programs at Providence Center or to volunteer visit their Brighton Height location at 3113 Brighton Rd. Call at (412) 766-3860 or visit online at providencecenter.org.

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