Two County Agencies To Merge Monday
With few noticeable changes intended, two county human services agencies will become one as of Monday, July 1. On that date, the Fulton County Partnership Inc. and the Fulton County Center for Families will merge into Fulton County Family Partnership. The two agencies, already co-located in the Overly-Raker building north of McConnellsburg on Route 522, will remain there for the foreseeable future and access to services will not change.
Fulton County Center for Families was established in 1992 to provide support, education and resources to families of Fulton County. Although the center originally began as just a daycare center, for more than a decade, the Pennsylvania’s Family Center Initiative has integrated and provided community services to help families become healthy, well-educated and self-sufficient. The Family Center has done this most noticeably through in-home parenting and daycare programs. However, those services are enhanced by also providing families with Parents as Teachers, childcare for preschool and for schoolage children, Fatherhood Initiative, Early Head Start program, Community Outreach Prevention Education program (COPE), the Nurturing Parent program and drug and alcohol prevention programs.
The Fulton County Partnership originated in 1995 with what was once the Family Service System Reform (FSSR) state grants that were designed to support community collaborative board activities that could draw from the earlier Family Centers grant program to reform larger public systems serving children. FSSR collaborative boards identified local assets, interests and needs; set priorities; and directed resources to build strong and integrated service networks for community children and families. The FSSR grants ended in the late 1990s, but unlike many counties whose programs ended after FSSR funding ceased to exist, in Fulton County a group of organizers formed a nonprofit 501(c)3 in February 1999 in order to continue the collaborative efforts and to build upon the work that was done with the grant funding. The Partnership’s work focuses on two areas: 1) the area of planning, collaborating, conducting needs assessments and setting the agenda for the county’s human services planning; and 2) the actual operation of human services programs that were needed in the community, but were not being provided by other entities. They include a volunteer dental clinic for ACCESS cardholders; the county’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program (MATP); Employment Transportation Assistance Program (ETAP); Persons with Disabilities transportation program; Safe Kids: Pennsylvania State Data Center partner; Communities that Care (CTC Initiative (done with the Family Center); and influenza vaccine clinics.
In March of this year, consumers using services from both agencies were sent letters informing them of the merger answering: What does this mean to you? Consumers were told, “You should not see any changes in the way you receive services. We do not anticipate any changes to our staff or the programming that we provide. The Family Center and Partnership main offices are already co-located in the Overly-Raker building. We will not be moving our offices. Our phone numbers will remain the same, although as we move through the transition to the new organization our menu options may change.”
Partnership meetings will continue to be held monthly and will be for community partners and board members, although board meetings will be held separately just as they are currently.
Julie Dovey, current executive director of Fulton County Partner- ship told the “News,” “I’m really encouraged by the merging of our agencies. As a small community, too often we see services being reduced or absorbed into larger counties. By bringing the two organizations together we hope to strengthen the resources that are provided here in our county.”
According to the merger plan, the Fulton County Partnership Inc. and the Fulton County Center for Families have a similar vision to serve the residents of Fulton County. Both boards of directors have concluded that the missions of both agencies can be best served by merging them into one. Both boards see this merger as a seamless one for consumers, but as one that will provide the new organization with more efficiency, more opportunity for growth and better financial control needed to survive the current economic challenges for public and private human services agencies.
Elen Ott, current executive director of the Family Center, echoed the boards’ thoughts saying, “Both organizations are coming into this merger with many strengths. We share a common vision of working collaboratively to address the concerns facing our county residents. We are motivated to pursue this merger so that we can continue to expand our efforts to help families and build a strong community.”
According to Jean Snyder, chair of the Fulton County Partnership, “This merger will not change how our customers access their services whether that is daycare, transportation, the dental clinic or other services. What it will do, we hope, is to streamline our operations, provide us with some economic efficiencies and combine our visions so that in these days of economic challenges we may provide more quality services to Fulton County families who need our support.”
The merger of the two agencies has been considered for several years, with planning beginning in earnest in 2012. Melissa Randler, vice president of the Partnership, and Larry Palmer, president of the Center for Families board, cochaired the merger committee. Randler said, “The members from both boards quickly realized the benefits of merging the two organizations. Both organizations had similar goals of promoting quality of life for children, families and individuals through the services they offer.”
The merger committee members were charged with preparing a plan of merger that was completed by February 2013. Randler acknowledged the work of all the committee members for their efforts and especially acknowledged “the work of attorney James Schall for his work in finalizing the Plan of Merger document.”
Elen Ott will become the executive program director in the new entity, while Julia Dovey will become the executive director of development for Fulton County Family Partnership.
Larry Palmer, chair of the Center for Families expressed his confidence in the new organization by saying, “I feel the merger will be very successful because of the leadership and professionalism of Elen and Julie. There should be more funding opportunities because the merged organization will be larger and Fulton County will ultimately benefit.”
The new board will be comprised of a combination of the two former boards and will include: Snyder, Palmer, Randler, Schall, Alicia Mellott, Dori Ann Hoffman, Commissioner Craig Cutchall, Anne Harvey, Becky Greenawalt, Tammy Bair, Kenny Wuertenberg, Nina Souders, Melissa Horton, Tina Washabaugh, Missy Reisinger, Deanne Baker, Dave Hoover, Iris Hendershot, Betty Jane Lee, Deborah Dresser Neiderer and Gary Minnier.
The Fulton County Family Partnership can be reached by calling 717-485-6767 and choosing among the menu options.