According to the well-known African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
At Joyful Connections in Oak Harbor, the employees are embodying that spirit in the hopes of making a difference with families in the community.
Located at 8200 W. SR 163 adjacent to Riverview Industries, the non-profit organization is dedicated to providing a safe, secure and home-like environment where children’s visits with a non-custodial parent are supervised and children can visit without fear or threat of violence.
Joyful Connections also acts as a “middle man” where children can be dropped off and picked up for supervised visits between separated or divorced parents that are having troubles with one another.
“It’s designed so that the opposing parties don’t have contact,” said Corrine Creeden, chair of Joyful Connections’ Board of Directors. “It’s a quick process – there is a fee (but) we don’t turn any parent away.”
The organization was founded in October 2008 by the Leadership Ottawa County (LOC) class of 2007 as a way to serve the community. Creeden credits Ottawa County judges Bruce Winters and Kathleen Giesler with having approached the class to provide them with some ideas and input, suggesting they come up with this kind of idea. In fact, families dealing with legal troubles involving their children are sometimes referred to Joyful Connections by the courts.
“I think it is a valuable resource to the community and I think the people who use our center are glad we’re there,” said Creeden.
The facility charges $15 per person for each visit and $14 per exchange, but fees can be adjusted based upon a sliding fee scale.
Visitation areas include furniture as well as books, toys, crafts and board games available to help create a comfortable setting.
“There’s an element of safety here,” said Sheila Powell, fiscal operations manager. “There’s always someone with the child. We’re non-judgmental; we don’t care what the parent has done. We just make sure that the child has a comfortable, home-like place to visit to spend time with the family member.”
Powell also spoke of the wide-ranging ages and the size of families that use the facility.
“We’ve had newborns up to 17-year-olds,” she said. “We’ve had families with one child, families with six children. The visits will most generally be between parents and children, but there will be visits between grandparents and children, too.
“We’re all about the child,” Powell said. “Yes, it’s the visiting parties who benefit, too, but our purpose is to serve the child, to make sure the child is safe and to make sure the child can visit with family members during difficult times. We don’t judge them; we don’t try to correct their situation. We’re neutral.
“We’re just here for the kids,” she said.
Powell credits a number of organizations and individuals for their support, most notably St. Boniface Catholic Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor. She also stressed that donations and volunteer support are vital to the success of the program.
According to Creeden, “the best way to support your non-profit organizations is to show up to events that they put on, donate money and supplies, give of your time and spread the word about the services we have.”
In addition to monetary donations, the Joyful Connections is in need of diapers, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer, markers, pens, tape, chairs and folding tables, among other things.
The organization is currently planning a “Family Frenzy” fundraising event Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds. It is the company’s version of the game show “Family Feud” and will feature teams competing against one another in fun-filled event. More details will be publicized closer to the event date.
For more information about Joyful Connections, call 567-262-3181 or visit www.joyfulconnections.com.