By Katie Demeria
WOODSTOCK -- Jennifer Orndorff, 27, of Strasburg, works with children every day at a day care. But when her son was born, she still needed help.
Sam Maier, 19, of Woodstock, became pregnant when she was 14 and had to depend on her mother. Their relationship suffered.
Healthy Families of Shenandoah County is a free program for those in need that stepped in to assist both Orndorff and Maier when they needed the help. Both women said they do not know where they would be without the service.
The family support service celebrated Orndorff and Maier on Thursday afternoon at the Grace Baptist Church in Woodstock. Orndorff's son Aiden, 4, and Maier's daughter Kaelynn, 4, were both graduating out of the program, which supports families until the children are around 5 years old.
Aiden was not able to attend because he was sick at home with his grandmother. Kaelynn, though, was there -- and she sat happily talking with her family's support worker Laurie Robinson.
"Laurie is part of the family now," Maier said. "She and I are like best friends."
Robinson said she has seen a complete turnaround since she started working with Maier four years before, pointing out that Maier now has her driver's license.
Many of those developments, Maier said, were thanks to Robinson's involvement.
The two made goals together and Robinson worked to help Maier achieve them, along with general education on how to care for her daughter.
"She helped me learn how to do it on my own, how to be independent, and what's right and what's wrong," Maier said.
Maier is now married and recently gave birth to her third child. She is a full time mom and her relationship with her own mother has drastically improved.
Despite her newfound stability, she said she hopes to continue working with Healthy Families with her other children.
"I don't think I could ever stop leaning on Laurie," she said.
Orndorff's support worker Jackie Funkhouser offered similar support -- but was needed in different ways.
Orndorff was 22 when she gave birth to Aiden. She said she had a healthy pregnancy, but since then Aiden, though a happy and bubbly baby, has battled various health problems.
"He has autism and mild cerebral palsy," she said. "I'm so proud of my son. He's gone through so much."
Funkhouser has been a vital part of Orndorff's life over the past several years, she said. She and Aiden live with her mother, who also frequently battles health problems.
"Between working and taking care of my mom and Aiden, I don't have the chance to get to a support group," she said. "So having Jackie, having someone to talk to, that's life saving."
She needed Funkhouser to provide information and extra supplies when possible. But she said she even leaned on Funkhouser as someone to talk with about her problems.
Funkhouser gave Orndorff the resources to regularly monitor Aiden's progress as he grew older, Orndorff said.
"That's helped us out a lot, knowing where he is," she continued. "He's my whole world, he's made me a better person, and I just want the best for him."
She said Funkhouser has been part of her and Aiden's life since he was one week old and she is very thankful for her involvement
"She and Aiden are really close, too," Orndorff said. "She's part of our family."
Those interested in learning more about Healthy Families can call the program at 540-459-8558.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com