CHD’s Family Outreach of Amherst (FOA) program held a celebratory event to kick off their 30th year of working to support families in need in their community on Wednesday, February 5, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA.
The event celebrated the program’s many accomplishments throughout its history, its current impact on the community as the ‘safety net’ for struggling families in Amherst, and the program’s vision for the future. FOA Program Director Laura Reichsman and CHD President and CEO Jim Goodwin each gave remarks during the ceremony, both speaking on the growth and transformation of the program, as well as the positive impact it continues to make in the lives of those it serves.
During the event, FOA also presented The Helen Mitchell Community Service Award to longtime local partner Tony Maroulis, who serves as executive director of external relations and university events at UMass Amherst. Former Massachusetts State Representative Ellen Story also presented FOA with a citation from Massachusetts State Representative Mindy Domb and Senator Jo Comerford for FOA’s longstanding commitment to serving the community.
“This isn’t just a job, this is a calling,” said Reichsman, who’s been with the program since 1992. “I am committed to helping anyone who wants to change their story do just that, and I am deeply honored to be part of their journey.”
Both Reichsman and Goodwin shared remarks on how FOA has evolved through the years, beginning when a shelter in the center of Amherst housing six mothers and their children closed in 1990, and the community banded together to support these original six in need. Now, FOA serves over 500 families each year, providing a number of critical services to individually address all issues struggling families may face—mental health, crisis intervention, advocacy and case management, immigration services and housing support—and offers resources to help launch families into years of stability and success.
“Family Outreach is a program that’s proud of what they do, who they serve and what they get done,” Goodwin said in his remarks. “Through the years it’s been a program that does wonderful, wonderful things, and one component that I’m most proud of is the practicality of it. This is a program where they actually do the work, they don’t just tell you where to go and hope you figure it out. It goes above and beyond.”
Goodwin also spoke of the adverse effects housing and life instability can have on the mental, behavioral and physical health of those affected, and addressed his contentment in being able to offer a multifaceted approach to serving those in need, not only in their wellness but also in the aspects of their life that will help them reach stability. He also spoke of FOA’s strong leadership and dedicated staff, and how that has been crucial to their ability to continue service.
“I see a great future for the program,” Goodwin added. “What Family Outreach has, and what Laura has tapped into, is a high draw of support from the people, who recognize that this is a valuable, valuable asset to the community. Helping people to level things out in their lives benefits everybody. You should all be proud of what you do.”