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Teepee guides families to resource center

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A teepee adorns the outside door of the entrance to the Strafford Parents As Teachers (PAT) TEEPEE resource center.

The design not only fits the program’s name, but also gives families a way to find the room, which provides clothes and other items.

"Mrs. Luebbe, our middle school and high school art teacher, painted the large TeePee," said Cinnamon Lumley, a Parent Educator for the PAT program. "This is so that the TEEPEE can easily be seen and located and having a special outside entrance is key, so that parents can come and go without the stigma attached to having a need being met and being required to sign in at the office."

The center has maternity clothing, as well as clothing from premature to size 6, shoes, socks, coats and seasonal items.

"We have donations of crib bedding, twin size bedding, feeding items, breast pumps, diapers and more. Within the resource room, the program also provide families PAT services and free developmental screenings for children birth to pre-kindergarten," said Lumley.

Three years ago, Lumley spoke to her supervisor, Lesa Collins, about parents within the PAT program who asked her if she had any other families in the school system that could benefit from donations, such as clothing, bedding, toys and books.

"Some of these clothes and toys were next to new and had so much love to give to another little boy or girl," said Lumley. "At that time, I would try to ask other families on my caseload if there were needs and then take to them, but at that time we didn’t have space to store such items. I was keeping them in my car, my house, or in my small office. It was a good problem to have! This started the idea!"

Lumley said Collins, who is also the Early Childhood Program director, inquired further during administration meetings about finding a room in the district to store items. With the help of Middle School principal Marci Chadwell, who donated a room with an outside entrance, and superintendent Brett Soden, they began collaborating to see if the room they secured could become a community resource room.  

"In the summer of 2019, this became a new goal for the group —  to provide a room for all of Strafford families, with children of ages prenatal to kindergarten age, the ages that Parents As Teachers provides services to, a resource room," said Lumley. "Parents As Teachers also has an advisory board with members of the Strafford community, including school board members, pastors, business leaders and parents that aided us in brainstorming, fundraising and getting the word out about our endeavor. We are thankful to National Heights Baptist Church and their women's group who helps us wash clothing items in all free and clear detergent. We clean all toys, baby items and books to ensure safety to our little ones."

School nurses and counselors call Lumley when new families move into the area and might need their services. They also utilize social media to inform the public about when the TEEPEE program is open.

"When the tornado came through Strafford a year ago in January, we opened on a Saturday to assist parents who needed clothing for their children that had lost everything," said Lumley. "We have also assisted families in the event of a house fire."

When a need arises, Lumley creates a list of items and shares it on Facebook. Strafford families help them keep the resource room stocked.

"We are so very thankful for their continued support. We recently had a community member donate a large monetary sum at Christmas time due to reading about us helping a family on social media, of which we could not have been more appreciative. Strafford is a pretty special place to work and live! I'm thankful that this room came to fruition by the help of so many, and can be of help to many others. It was built by a community, for a community, out of love."

The program is currently open by appointment only. For more information, visit the Strafford Parents As Teachers Facebook page or contact Cinnamon Lumley or Jamie Muncy at 736-7000 ext. 2.

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