SPRING HILL — Advocates for improving the lives of local children are participating in a whimsical way to show kids that the community really does care about them.
You may have noticed gardens, decorated by spinning pinwheels, popping up around Hernando, from Brooksville City Hall to child care centers.
If Noreen St. Jean gets her wish, more will be springing up in the coming weeks.
The Spring Hill community activist and community facilitator for Devereux Kids, a national nonprofit group focused on helping children in need, is promoting the national Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.
St. Jean hopes the toys will attract attention and lead to conversations about how to strengthen families as part of the drive to put kids first.
"Our goal is to educate and nurture families,'' she said. "Parents should realize they are their child's first teacher. We want to support family well-being.''
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but St. Jean said the group hopes to keep the vibe positive; strong and happy families, she said, will help prevent child abuse.
Participants in the pinwheel garden campaign are encouraged to photograph their gardens and pinwheels, write a pledge promising to be a good role model or supporter of children, and send the photo and pledge to St. Jean at email@example.com.
Pinwheels have blossomed at Brooksville City Hall, she noted on Wednesday, and more are expected to sprout at the Hernando County Government Center on Tuesday.
St. Jean will forward these submissions to Accuform, a sign-making business in the Hernando Airport Industrial Park, which will produce a banner bearing replicas of the photos.
The banner, she said, will be displayed around the county all year.
"We're challenging the community to put their kids first," St. Jean said. "Florida is taking part in this national campaign of positive parenting, abuse prevention."
On Friday, teen members of the Boys and Girls Club will show off their garden and pinwheels at the club site, 5404 Applegate Drive.
Also committed to the program are several schools, Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County, Brooksville Mayor Frankie Burnett, Hernando Youth Initiative and Kids Central. The Child Advocacy office and State Attorney's office have expressed interest, St. Jean added.
Kids Central hired Devereux Kids to carry out the project.
The Devereux Foundation, founded in 1912 in Pennsylvania, created Devereux Florida in 1987, according to the group's website. Devereux Florida provides behavioral health, intellectual/developmental disabilities, and child welfare services to more than 13,000 children annually.
The organization operates almost 50 programs in 38 Florida counties and is the largest nonprofit provider of these services in the state, the website states.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org