Over 30 years ago, Ginger West was a foster mother who had cared for over 200 children in her home over the years. Ginger and a small group of foster parents saw a tremendous need in the Citrus County community to strengthen the family unit and to keep children from going into foster care. This group created a corporation called The Citrus County Child Abuse Prevention Project, where they conducted parent education classes in various borrowed spaces.
In 1986 their small group was joined by a group of professionals who also cared about children. The advisory board now consists of foster parents, teachers, administrators, nurses, psychologists and counselors who all volunteer their time.
This fabulous group of people wanted a more approachable name so that frustrated parent could go for help without being labeled. So they changed their corporate name to the Citrus County Family Resource Center.
It came to the attention of these professionals that the underlying cause of many of these struggling families revolved around a missing support system. They felt that it was the community’s responsibility when families weren’t working well. It was obvious that these struggling families were frequently disrupted by homelessness, divorce, separation, estranged emotions,sickness, death, drug abuse and prison. The Resource Center strongly believe that most parents would parent well if they knew what to do and had the resources to do it.
As Ginger graciously took me on a tour of the facility, I was amazed at everything they had accomplished over the past 30 years. Zoning and permit issues, lack of funding, and the need for donations and volunteers are just a few of the hurdles they have had to overcome.
Now, they also have a building that has supportive services just a short walk down the road. The Connections Outreach Center has representatives from other agencies stationed in the building throughout the week. Veteran’s Services provide help to the veterans, and The Department of Children and Families comes to help clients with Food Stamps and Medicaid. There are showers available on site to fulfill a need for the homeless population, and computers to aid individuals in the community needing internet access.
The Citrus County Family Resource Center receives referrals from numerous agencies so that families can use the library, the clothing closet, the food pantry, bicycles to ride to work, computers, and parenting education classes as well as other items they may need for their homes. They have baby clothes, formula and other baby supplies available. They have a medical and dental bus in partnership with the George A Dame Community Health Center, and through a local grant, they now also have a Cancer Screening Program. Their contribution to the community is staggering!
They have also found a way to bring Christmas to families in need. Santa’s Workshop is on site. Every year approximately 2,000 families are able to celebrate Christmas due to the community’s wonderful donations through the Sponsor a Child for Christmas Program. They work with many agencies in the community who make referrals for families needing some help with Christmas. The workshop is already filling up with new toys so that Santa’s little helpers can start organizing gifts for Christmas.
Last year, The Citrus County Resource Center had almost 500 volunteers. If you would like to volunteer or donate to this much needed community resource, please call 352-344-1001 for more information. Citrus County Resource Center is located at 2435 North Florida Avenue, Hernando, Florida 34442.