Where the Network of East Hillsborough Neighborhoods left off, the Children's Board Family Resource Center has stepped in, ensuring hundreds of Plant City families continue to receive needed child services.
Last year, funding shifted from the Network of East Hillsborough to the Family Resource Center program. Since October the Center at 639 E Alexander St. has offered many of the same programs as before, plus some additional.
The result is expanded child services, center officials say.
"Before it was more of an outreach program," center manager Marcia Cedano said. "Now the mission is more in child development and health and safety."
On any given day, the 3,000-square-foot center at the back of Alexander Crossings, next to the Walmart, may offer any of a dozen child-focused programs, from hearing and vision screenings to immunizations and parenting classes.
Also, parents can use the center's computers to look for jobs or apply for food stamps and Florida KidCare, a Medicaid-based insurance program provided by the state.
Serving Plant City, Dover, Turkey Creek, Bealsville and other unincorporated areas of East Hillsborough, the East County Family Resource Center center is the sixth resource center to open in Hillsborough.
Champions for Children, which has helped more than a million families in Hillsborough since its 1977, manages the center. The Healthy Start Coalition of Tampa Bay oversees the entire resource center program.
The center is a refuge, particularly for parents who lack insurance or can't afford child health screenings, Cedano said.
The center helps families from all economic backgrounds, she said. Funding is provided by the Children's Board, and all of the center's services come at no additional cost to the public.
"If a child is a little bit behind, or may not be have the motor skills in his age group, we can work on that," she said.
Doctors and nurses from the Children's Advocacy Center at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital provide the screenings and health and safety classes. The center can also certify people in CPR.
Cedano said the center is still being set up. It held its official opening last week and started doing outreach last fall to libraries, community centers, schools and churches. Eventually it will partner with students from local high schools. Since October, the center has helped 125 families, she said.
"Often, parents are working, but they don't have insurance or don't have enough insurance to pay for programs like these," she said. "Some of the things we do is help families realize that there are options available to them."
Rich Shopes can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2454.