By Katie Becker |

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It’s 10:45 on Tuesday morning, 15 minutes before the Clayton County CPPC meeting starts, and the crew is already busy planning for the upcoming spring and summer. The table, full of eager faces glowing in the mid-morning sun in the Family Resource Center office, discusses a grocery list of projects they hope to offer children and families. Each suggestion comes with a discussion about what families have time for, what kids will be willing to do, who can help meet the need, and of course, ‘kids these days.’ This is a common sight in this county: a table of five, six, or seven, throwing out ideas, contacts, and needs. There’s always a problem to tackle and at least three projects on a waiting list.

At 11:00, a couple of late arrivals join the group, and it shifts from one topic to another. Throughout the meeting, Kari Harbaugh, the woman behind the Family Resource Center in Guttenberg, jumps to answer phones, walk-ins, and questions from service providers working out of this office. She seems to know everything happening in the space. Come with a concern, and Kari welcomes you, problem-solves, and gets you to the person who can help. “I don’t think she sleeps,” said Jazmon Boose, Child Advocate and Child Abuse Prevention Coordinator. “She’s always working on something, and it’s always great.” Within just 30 minutes, Kari has given a tour of the new space, answered phone calls, and tended to a walk-in. The click of her shoes across the hardwood floors gives a sense of urgency and of hard work needing to get done. She returns to the table, making a mental note to add one more detail to her growing to-do list.

Kari’s busied pace is needed to help her keep up with CPPC projects, like self-image workshops for youth. For the last two years, the group has hosted these workshops for boys and girls of different ages. It’s fun to hear them reflect on the experience; how the groups were different, what that says about boys and girls, how they can improve the experience, and the sense of fulfillment from their completed pieces. After the workshop, students present their pictures at an informal gallery at the Guttenberg Creativity Center, a unique experience youth won’t soon forget. These projects, added to the crisis services, policy work, and community outreach done by the phenomenal Clayton County CPPC team, puts them in the best position to address current issues facing residents.

It isn’t simple or easy to offer programs in rural communities where barriers always exist. Transportation is a big one. People don’t always have the time or resources to travel for services. If the service can’t come to them, they can’t use it. The Family Resource Center recognizes this, and with a new location and plenty of space for everyone, they’ve become a resource hub for the county. Helping Services staff work from here instead of home offices on days they serve in Clayton County. Workers from HAWC Partnership for Children, Life-Line Resources, and a handful of other providers serve out of here, too. Having a convenient location where people can meet eliminates some barriers for families. Kari and the team understand it takes a lot of coordination, time, and effort to help people overcome the obstacles they face, and they make the time to dig in and help.

Kari and the band of collaborators get things done. It’s as simple as that. They personally understand the history, people, and needs in this county. Their work isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always welcomed by everyone, but that doesn’t stop them. They have hope for area kids: to have adventures, learn skills, and dream about their futures. They know if you want kids to dream big, you have to give them things to dream about. Sometimes, that just takes a dedicated leader with a group of hard-working teammates to pull the right services, organizations, and resources together.

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Originally published as part of Prevention Spring 2014.

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