Commission hears family services center update

Mary Hill Family Life Center Resource Development Director Laura Bruce gives a status update on the family assistance center at the Dale County Commission meeting June 9.

Updated computers and a building security system are among the items that would enhance services at the Mary Hill Family Services Center, the Dale County Commissioners were told at the commission meeting June 9.

The county’s family resource center, located on Katherine Avenue in Ozark, has a new leadership team that came on board about five weeks ago. Paige Knight is the MHFSC Program Director and Laura Bruce is the center’s resource development director.

Both were at the Dale County Commission meeting to give an update and to ask for financial assistance for enhancements for the center which was started in 2006 with a goal of strengthening the families through new parent training, children's services, family and youth counseling and professional development. The services provided include a clothes closet, emergency food pantry and pre-employment and life skills classes.

“Our hope is that we can become certified to help more people in the Dale County community,” Knight said. “Our hope is that once we become certified that we are able to offer even more programs.”

“Our mission is to strengthen families through educational services and resources needed to improve the quality of life for all life stages,” Bruce told the commissioners. “That’s why we’re here. We want to see our community go to the next levels.”

Bruce said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHFSC provided meals for about 40 families a month. “We are now feeding 200 families monthly and some are coming two times a month,” Bruce said. “Before COVID-19, the center helped about 10 families a month with utilities. Now, we’re helping more than 30 families a month.”

The MHFSC is now part of the United States Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families Food Box program, Bruce said. Distribution of the boxes of about 20 pounds of fresh produce is on Thursdays at the center from 10 a.m. until all the boxes have been distributed.

“We are awarded about 500 boxes a week from now through December,” Bruce said, noting that volunteers are being sought to help unload the trucks.

Bruce thanked the commission for continued support of the center over the years, including recent financial assistance during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With state-mandated facility shutdowns and social distancing pandemic-created mandates, Knight and Bruce are often working from home. The duo have discovered that the computers are outdated to the degree that they cannot participate in internet-based video conferencing meetings. “We don’t have cameras on the computers we have,” Bruce said. “The computers that we have are not sufficient for what we need.”

Bruce also said that a security system for the front of the building is a preventive measure that would be appreciated. “Our offices are in the back of the building so we cannot see the front of the building,” Bruce said.

Bruce requested $15,000 from the commission for updated laptop computers for staff and the security system.

Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship said the commission would review the request.

In unrelated business, the commission re-appointed Commissioner Frankie Wilson to represent the county on the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Legislative Committee.

The commission also approved County Administrator Cheryl Ganey’s request to apply to the Secretary of State’s office for $30,077 for election related expenses related to include absentee manager fees, extra funding for poll workers, COVID-19 pandemic protective face masks for election personnel and carpet clearing before and after elections at the polling places.

The commission also agreed to the Dale County Board of Education’s request for assistance with disposal of materials connected with the demolition of the old National Guard Armory on Highway 231 in Ozark which the DBOE had expected to use as a career technical academy.

Blankenship said that architects’ review of the building’s condition revealed that it would be more cost effective to demolish the building instead of renovating it. The commission agreed to allow demolition debris that was non-asbestos related to be put in the county landfill.

In other business, the commission authorized the chairman to sign a construction agreement to resurface and widen County Road 9 from the Houston County line to State Road 134.

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Tuesday, June 23, at 10 a.m. in the county government building in Ozark. A work session is followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

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