Outreach focuses on health, housing, hunger

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — More than 150 people showed up for the City of Huntingburg’s first Community Connect fair Thursday afternoon at Teen Outback.

The community outreach fair aimed at providing information addressing health, housing and hunger within the region.

The event was set up to resemble a job fair, with about a dozen agencies including Memorial Hospital, Tri-Cap and Habitat for Humanity camped out in booths ready to dispense information and give demonstrations.

Sheral Stanton, director at 21st Century Community Learning Centers of the Southwest Dubois School Corp., a partner for the event, said the idea for the fair grew from a similar one put on by the schools and Teen Outback in July aimed at parents preparing for the upcoming school year.

Mayor Denny Spinner, who was popping popcorn Thursday, saw the potential to create a larger, more regular program for Huntingburg after he saw the positive reaction to the event in July. The City of Huntingburg, along with local organizations, began work to create a quarterly Community Connect event that would address different seasonal issues and topics.

Thursday’s event, in conjunction with the nationwide Lights On Afterschool alliance, focused on after-school programs for elementary school students such as the Southwest Raiders Involved in Daily Growth and Enrichment program and the preschool day care A Kid’s Place.

“We’re highlighting after-school programs that provide students a safe place and activities,” said Stanton, who mentioned that since the program, which is funded in part by federal grants, began four years ago, Huntingburg schools have seen an increase in test scores.

Purdue Extension was on hand to demonstrate healthy eating habits and Southwest science teachers conducted experiments such as making slime from glue and starch. Stanton said the demonstrations were meant not only for younger guests to learn about science but to demonstrate to parents the kinds of science, technology, engineering and math projects the RIDGE program provides.

“We’re giving them activities that help target their needs and motivate them,” she said.

Spinner said most of the people at the Thursday event were parents fetching children from the RIDGE program, which normally meets at Huntingburg Elementary but was moved to Teen Outback for the day’s activities.

“Today, it’s mostly parents picking up kids from the after-school program,” he said, but in the future he hopes to reach parents and other community members not already involved in existing programs.
“We had a short timeline” for creating the event, he said. “Tying with the school program was a way to get quick community outreach for the first event.”

Children appeared to enjoy the demonstrations, which included making towers from uncooked pasta and marshmallows and building simple circuit boards.

Jazmin Vresti, a third-grader at Huntingburg Elementary, said she was pleased with the afternoon. “You can learn things ... like working together and helping,” she said, poking a strand of spaghetti into a mini marshmallow. “It was fun because I got to meet new kids.”

Contact Sarah Fentem at sfentem@dcherald.com.

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