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Bryan County Family Connection honors partners

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POSTED: June 18, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Jeff Whitten/

Bryan County Family Connection Coordinator Wendy Sims thanks the collaborative's many community partners during a lunch Thursday at Black Creek Golf Club.

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Bryan County Family Connection Coordinator Wendy Sims is usually a one-woman whirlwind of activity, moving from one of the local and state collaborative’s many missions to another.
Thursday, Sims stood still long enough at a lunch at the Black Creek Golf Club to thank the many who were a part of the Bryan County Family Connection in the past fiscal year while also highlighting accomplishments such as the opening of the North Bryan Service Center in November.
“We’re celebrating this past year and what we’ve accomplished,” Sims said. “It’s a good time for all our partners to come together.”
The event was themed as a “Boots & BBQ” appreciation luncheon “celebrating the best collaborative in the west.”
“Well, east, well, southeast, well, y’all know what I mean,” Sims said, before introducing Susan Harrell, the Region 12 Facilitator for Family Connections.
Harrell gave a bit of the history of the group, which began around 1990 under former Gov. Zell Miller.
“Gov. Miller and his think tank had this brilliant idea, though nobody really thought it was brilliant at the time,” Harrell said. “They thought there was no way this would work.”
Harrell said the idea was essentially this: “If you set counties up and give people some resources and let them put together a plan to solve the issues facing families and children in their communities, they could be successful in doing it.”
Eight counties applied for the first state money in 1992. Now, every county in the state is on board and Bryan County established its Family Connections program in 2001. Sims came on board in 2008 as the coordinator.
“There are other good coordinators but she is a great coordinator,” said Harrell, who also praised local governments for working to aid the organization.
That’s largely because Sims is not only dedicated and hard working, “but she has big picture views,” Harrell said. “She knows in order to solve problems with children and families, you have to have long range plan. Those issues with families and children didn’t happen over night, you’re not going to solve them overnight.”
Harrell said Sims’ ability to get people to work together and her willingness to tackle issues such as mental health that make her invaluable to Family Connections.
“She’s very good about putting foundations in place to solve problems,” Harrell said, and both she and Sims pointed to mental health care as a priority in the coming year.
“There is a critical need you all face in trying to get some of your folks who are in dire need of mental health some help,” Harrell said. “There are a lot of gaps in services and people who are without insurance.”
The region has applied for a grant which could help improve things for those people, Sims said.
“We are beating the mental health drum,” she said. “It’s something we need, and it’s not just in our county, it’s in our region. It’s not just in our region, it’s in our state.”
But the day was mostly about Family Connections saying thanks to its partners – many of whom were represented at the lunch and others who weren’t.
The groups recognized at the luncheon ranged from local governments and services agencies to churches, law enforcement and others. Among those Sims singled out were Pembroke Advanced Communications employees who help each year with the Bryan County Children’s Fund, which annually provides gifts for hundreds of kids who otherwise would go without. Much of the wrapping is done by
“I really wanted them (at the lunch) today to thank them,” Sims said. “These guys bag, load, play with footballs, whatever it takes to help me get it done. I typically have them help for a week, have their trucks and anything I need at my disposal. Thank you guys again.”
Also saying thanks was Bryan County Family Connections board member Terri Liles, a 10-year veteran of the board.
She said a willingness to work together to address problems makes BCFC work.
“Everyone pulls together to make Bryan County a stronger, better place for its families and children,” said Liles, who ended by harkening back to Sims’ theme of “Best Collaborative in the West.”
“Wendy asked me to tell you all ‘happy trials’ and to please pick up your trial mix …”

Those issues with families and children didn’t happen over night, you’re not going to solve them overnight.”
Harrell said Sims’ ability to get people to work together and her willingness to tackle issues such as mental health that make her invaluable to Family Connection.
“She’s very good about putting foundations in place to solve problems,” Harrell said, and both she and Sims pointed to mental health care as a priority in the coming year.
The region has applied for a grant which could help improve mental health care in the area, Sims said.
“We are beating the mental health drum,” she said. “It’s something we need, and it’s not just in our county, it’s in our region. It’s not just in our region, it’s in our state.”
But the day was mostly about Family Connection saying thanks to its partners—– many of whom were represented at the lunch and others who weren’t.
The groups recognized at the luncheon ranged from local governments and services agencies to churches, law enforcement and others. Among those Sims singled out were Pembroke Advanced Communications employees who help each year with the Bryan County Children’s Fund, which annually provides gifts for hundreds of kids who otherwise would go without.
Also saying thanks was Bryan County Family Connection board member Terri Liles, a 10-year veteran of the board.
She closed out the lunch by noting a willingness to work together to address problems is what makes BCFC work.
“Everyone pulls together to make Bryan County a stronger, better place for its families and children,” said Liles, who ended by harkening back to Sims’ theme of “Best Collaborative in the West.”
“Wendy asked me to tell you all ‘happy trials’ and to please pick up your trial mix ….”

 

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