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On Friday, September 24, afternoon nine Charles County children graduated from the Healthy Families Southern Maryland program at an awards ceremony at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall where guest speaker Maryland State Senator Arthur Ellis, 28thLegislative District, presented a Maryland Senate Citation to the organization for its program assisting families in both Charles and Saint Mary’s counties.

Guest Speaker, Maryland State Senator Arthur Ellis, second from left, presents a Maryland General Assembly Citation to Healthy Families Southern Maryland during 2020-21 Graduation ceremony Friday for nine Charles County pre school children who completed the organization’s program. Receiving the proclamation on behalf of Healthy Families Southern Maryland are, left to right, Andrea Sanford, Center for Children Board Member, Senator Ellis, Jennifer Fiechtner, Healthy Families Southern Maryland Program Manager and Samantha Stratchkom, Center for Children Board Member.

Jennifer Fiechtner, program manager for the nationally accredited program, said that they currently have 48 families in Charles and St. Mary’s counties enrolled in their program that provides cost-free support to area families from pregnancy from age three to five when the children enter pre-school or Head Start programs.

Senator Ellis said the citation noted the “immeasurable work your organization has done to lead the development of Charles County’s children and families. Since 1999, Healthy Families Charles County has provided cost-free programs aimed to empower our community.”

Valentina Gomez, left, and Alexander Kaufman proudly sport the new school backpacks presented them Friday along with certificates, a catered supper and other goodies during the 2020-21 graduation ceremonies at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall. Gomez and Kaufman were among the nine Charles County children to graduate from the Healthy Families Southern Maryland program which provides free home visits, necessities, information and program connections to families in Charles and Saint Mary’s counties. The organization was founded in 1999 in Charles County. Maria and Douglas Gomez are parents of Valentina and Lauren Kaufman is the parent of Alexander. Guest Speaker, Maryland State Senator Arthur Ellis, 28th Legislative district also presented a Maryland General Assembly Citation to Healthy Families Southern Maryland during the ceremony.

The graduates were provided with certificates and a backpack for school, along with a catered supper and dessert.

Fiechtner said their program is funded by the Maryland Department of Education and St. Mary’s Health Department. She added that the organization provides families with home visits to teach them about child development, connections to community resources for housing and employment support, education opportunities, and practical items such as diapers.

Fiechtner noted that their program “…partners with the Maryland Diaper Bank to distribute over 2000 diapers a month to our participants, and we run a small donation closet with clothes, toys, books, and other baby items for our families.”

Elizabeth Garcia, Family Support Specialist for Healthy Families Southern Maryland, left, presents Valentina Gomez of Charles County with her certificate and backpack during the 2020-21 graduation ceremonies at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall Friday, September 24. In the background is Addie Leonard, also a Family Support Specialist for the program, while Valentina’s mom, Maria Gomez, far right, provides her daughter with moral support. Guest Speaker, Maryland State Senator Arthur Ellis, 28th Legislative district also presented a Maryland General Assembly Citation to Healthy Families Southern Maryland during the ceremony.

Healthy Families Southern Maryland normally has a staff of seven, although it is currently seeking to fill two vacant Family Support Specialists positions.

Fiechtner added, “We normally have a graduation every year, but we were not able to have on in 2020 due to the pandemic. This graduation celebrated all families who completed our program since June 2019.

“We had nine children graduating this year from eight families (one set of twins)….All graduating families were from Charles County.”

Healthy Families Southern Maryland was started at Center for Children in 1999, serving Charles County, and expanding to St. Mary’s County in 2014.


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