Consider the many faces of Fayette this season

There is a tradition in our family of decorating the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night. We endearingly call this time “Why I’m Thankful Hour.” We each take an ornament to place on the tree and say what we are thankful for this year.

We initially established this tradition in our home to encourage an attitude of gratitude in our two young daughters. It caught on so well with our friends and family members that now the Thankful Hour lasts for several hours and Thanksgiving is officially our girls’ favorite holiday.

This year after attending the annual Legislative Day sponsored by Fayette FACTOR, I had several more thankful ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree. I had always been thankful that my children were healthy; however, somehow, in the hustle and bustle of life, I had taken it for granted. After seeing the many faces of Fayette represented at the Legislative Day, I will no longer take that for granted.

We are very fortunate in Fayette County to have an excellent school system, an active faith-based community as well as several front-line service organizations that are supporting families in need. However, we still need help as state Representative Virgil Fludd, Representative Matt Ramsey, Senator Valencia Seay and Representative John Yates heard from representatives from various service organizations during FACTOR’s Legislative Day.

The many Faces of Fayette include families with lost jobs now needing financial assistance, grandparents raising their grandchildren, children affected by abuse as well as children with special physical, developmental, behavioral or other medical needs.

The organizations and the agencies serving these families have all faced budget cuts and as a result have to find creative ways to best serve their families. Collaborating with other agencies and organizations, sharing resources and programs is vitally important in this current economic climate. Helping the families find creative ways to support themselves and others is also critical to the times.

Our school system, ExceptionalOps, Fayette Navigation Team, along with other groups collaborate to support the children and families with special needs.

Grandparents and other relatives raising children have been deeply affected by state budget cuts and are grateful there is a group in our county that recognizes their distinct needs.

Thanks to FACTOR bringing together social services, school system, faith-based, mental health and individuals the children of these caregivers are able to attend a special summer camp that addresses the emotional, psychological issues associated with being raised by family other than their parents.

Fayette County Public Schools report an increase in the number of school social work referrals due to economic needs, while the level of giving has decreased, which affects the school system’s and other organizations’ ability to provide some services previously offered such as after school scholarships.

With an increase in homeless students, the school system is constantly looking for new services and agencies that can assist with meeting the social, emotional and economic needs of these students.

The legislators in attendance vowed to take the concerns of the issues facing Fayette County families back to their constituents in an effort to garner more support for these families. Education and collaboration is essential in giving a voice and support to the many faces of these families.

FACTOR remains vigilant in its efforts to improve the quality of life for Fayette’s children, families and communities. Factor, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is in the statewide Family Connection network whose mission is to improve the lives of children and families through collaboration.

FACTOR’s mission is to build a healthy Fayette County through education, networking and advocacy by bringing all areas of the community together. If you need assistance or would like to provide support, please visit our website at www.fayettefactor.org or call Executive Director Becky Smith at 770-716-2797.

Debra Woodard, FACTOR Board Member

Fayetteville, Ga.