The Piñon Project Family Resource Center strengthens our community by providing comprehensive services for children and families.
The Piñon Project Family Resource Center is a non-profit organization that originated in 1994 as a result of a community grassroots effort under The Healthy Communities Initiative. Through the Initiative, Montezuma County engaged in a process of creating a statement of vision for our community's future. The process brought together passionate community stakeholders who were charged with the task of identifying root issues critical to the local area and developing sustainable projects to address those issues. Through the efforts of those committed community members and The Healthy Communities Initiative, The Piñon Project evolved from that vision statement.
- One of our biggest PAT Success Stories is a single mother of 3 who has managed staying just barely engaged in programming over the past 6 months. The current approaches to meeting clients where they are using technology has been both a hindrance and helpful in encouraging her to re-engage fully in the PAT program. Only two months ago she was in threat of losing her housing and struggling to find a way to get the needs of her children met. Now she has reactivated her TANF and this has led to a stronger engagement in all programming. MEAC is helping with internet installation, while Pinon Project will also be checking out a Chrome book to help bust through the barrier of limited technology. This is creating an environment for her that helps make her feel successful and pride in the things she has been able to accomplish.
- We were able to assist a man with his rent. We are now working on income goals. It was hard for this particular client to reach out for any help. He noted he has never been in position before. Given the client's background and culture it was foreign for them to ask for help when needed. Now he knows he has a support if he wishes to use us that we are here for him and his family. But also that he will be gaining skills with our Financial Health classes he is getting ready to start doing.
- Alphabet Soup continues to meet on Zoom every Thursday night. Parents report appreciating the added support and laughter as well as the ideas shared among the group for addressing distance learning challenges. Alphabet Soup has also added a closed group on Facebook for parents to share support and resources at any time throughout the week.
- We would like to highlight a gentleman that will remain in the WAGEES Re-Entry program but has excelled since he was released from prison. He was released at the end of January and when he came to request services he had only been out of prison for three weeks after serving 16 years. He already had a job but was struggling to maintain that job because he had nowhere else to live but outside of Mancos while his employment was in Cortez. He struggled with transportation, understanding technology, effective communication, large crowds and adjusting to life on the "outside". He talked about wanting to go back because everything was so much different than he remembered as a young adult when he was first sent to prison.
In that time WAGEES helped him secure housing in town so he could walk to work or car pool with others. He was able to work with Colorado Work Force to build a resume as a safety net in case he wanted to pursue another job. He has been able to purchase a vehicle and is working towards getting his license back. He has actively attended therapy and remained compliant with parole. In his newfound job, WAGEES was able to purchase him hand tools and work boots to be able to perform his duties for employment. He has a girlfriend who has two elementary aged children. He thrives with them as he was not able to raise his own child due to his incarceration. He continues to struggle adjusting but he no longer wishes to return to prison.
- This month has been an unusual one, as the first two weeks of March were the only ones conducted in our normal manner. My success story this month will be a little different, due to the circumstances of my AmeriCorps position. AmeriCorps and my host site, the Piñon Project, released me to work remotely, focusing primarily on aiding COVID-19 response efforts in the county. My success story is the gradual stabilization I have been seeing at the food pantries I am spending hours with; last week and the week before, a productive chaos reigned. Now, operations are becoming more cohesive, and it is becoming easier to take stock of where the food pantries are, where they want to be, how to mobilize a volunteer force, and how to do our part in helping to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. It has been extremely gratifying to see how many AmeriCorps members from all over the county are stepping up to offer their support in this uncertain time.
- The CET Coordinator is working closely with SJBOCES and administration at the Middle School to get everything in place so that a youth that has been without schooling for 4 months can start seeing a tutor in a school setting a couple days a week.
- This month's success story is with a local family, six months sober and the mother and have have attained employment as grounds keepers through the Pinon Project, continue to be enrolled voluntary in programming and father has almost completed his CNA training through Unlimited Learning Center. Their entire family has taken on this independent operator business serious and the growth as a family pulling together has been incredible to witness. Transitioning soon to be off TANF and still housed, sober, and reunified while providing leadership through their NA group as they both now hold leadership positions. Both parents continue to make strides in their recovery and parenting capabilities. When they exhibit stress, they will often ask for guidance from multiple sources within the center and have been capable of solving their own situations prior to asking for advice but rather asking if they chose the right thing, more often always being the recommended suggestion of an expert on the particular situation.
- WAGEES was contacted by a participant as well as by parole to enroll him. Initially this gentleman presented with significant anxiety and stress. He was in the process of completion of the Hilltop House Program with many issues presenting as imminent with his family, specifically his daughter. He had raised his daughter since she was two years old on his own. When he was sent to prison she was 11 years old. At this point she had to go live with her mother and was separated from her father physically, mentally and emotionally for the next 18 months during his incarceration. When he was granted the opportunity to go to Hilltop House Community Corrections he immediately accepted this opportunity to return to his community where he could begin to build his life.
When he returned his daughter was then 13 years old and struggling greatly. She was using marijuana, had been physically violent with another teen at school which caused her to be expelled from school. She was running away from her mother's home and dating much older boys. Child Protective Services became involved and she was facing removal from her mother's home. Since the participants return he has been able to maintain employment in his area of expertise. He completed the Hilltop House Community Corrections program. He has been active in keeping his child in the mothers' home and out of foster care. More recently he has been able to lease a 2 bedroom apartment and his daughter has returned home with him. He has been able to enroll her in another High School where she attends regularly, does not have issues with other students and is making straight A's. Lastly, Child Protective Services has closed their case. While we work more intensely with families the impacts of incarceration span so far beyond the actual incarceration of one individual. All members within the family suffer but with hope, resilience, motivation and connectivity to a supportive community lives can be restored.
- One of the families who gets supervised visitations at The Piñon Project have two young boys who are potty training. The boys have been doing a great job and the foster family keeps me updated so I can relay the information to the parents. The foster and biological parents have been praising the boys and rewarding them with stickers. The boys will excitedly show their parents how many stickers they have and become visibly excited when the parents mirror their enthusiasm!
- Fatherhood Program is collaborating with Dolores County Social Services in support of a father doing supervised visits in Dove Creek. This father has worked through the Nurturing Father's Program and is supportive of ongoing coaching as he strengthens skills needed for self-care and interactions with his 3 children. Recent efforts on his part have resulted in his being awarded lengthened visits. Fatherhood is pleased to be able to provide continued support to this father and enhance the services offered through DCSS.
- There were three visitations this month where one of the children had a Birthday! The visiting parents brought cakes and presents so they could have a small party to celebrate with their child. During one of these visits, the parents wanted to get a video of them singing to their child. The Mother had said she would take the video so the Father could be in it. I asked if they wanted me to videotape them singing so they could all be in it together and the Mother became very excited and said that would be amazing. All of the families who were able to celebrate their child's birthday were thankful. I was told by one family that they were afraid that they were not going to be able to celebrate with their child due to their situation, and that they were very thankful for this program so they don't miss out on special moments like this.
- Starting over, again, is a common theme with WAGEES clients. A start can sometimes mean picking yourself up one more time. Again the success this month is knowing where your resources are and using them. A female client has tentatively reached out expecting to be turned away by a disappointed resource. The power of WAGEES is it is all about second, third and more chances. A slow start is something that is encouraged and for this client it is what she needs. She is reaching out to her circle for housing and encouragement, to WAGEES for resources like transportation and employment help and also encouragement. She is a client who appeared to have drifted away but knew where her resources were and reached out again. She now has a direction to go in for employment, physical and mental health resources and now it is up to her again to follow through.
- One of the families that we provide supervised visits have been receiving some one-on-one parenting support from a counselor. The parents have been bringing in some of the tools that they have received during their counseling to show me, and have been eager to explain what they have been learning. The parents have been actively trying out what they have been learning when they interact with the kids during the visits. It has been interesting to watch the parents talk to each other as they are problem solving during the visits because they say, "Remember what we learned from the counselor."
Summer programming is starting to take shape, we are planning to serve youth that are in Check and Connect, with about 120 youth ranging from ages 11-14. We have also been reaching out to local organizations to find short and long term projects that teach life skills and provide community service. We are planning to fill our days with these projects, with some recurring weekly such as gardening, yard cleaning for local organizations, or trail work. Other projects and activities include; murals, business demonstrations, animal handling, auto maintenance, event organization, plus many more. Youth will attend according to their preferences and interests. Organizations have been open to working with us and thinking about activities our youth can do with/for them while still pertaining to social distance guidelines.
- Three families have checked out gear from the kits and the youth are enjoying them. More arts and crafts have been added such as: origami and watercolor. The kits will go through the summer and families may extend or change out gear according to their needs.
- A former After School Program and Youth Advisory Council (YAC) member recently reached out to become involved in YAC again. Although there has been trouble with finding an online meeting platform that all youth can access, she has still been reaching out. She stated she has missed being able to connect with other youth especially in this time and wants to be apart of something that isn't school related. She has mentioned that through YAC she has enjoyed being apart of past community events such as Pumpkin Fest and Christmas for Kids and wants to be apart of those and other Piñon events or community opportunities.