By Katie Demeria
WOODSTOCK -- As Yvonne Frazier, Healthy Families of Shenandoah County's program manager, and her team planted pinwheels outside Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, a passing driver stopped Lore Fogle, Valley Health public relations/marketing manager.
"They wanted us to put one in the ground for their niece," Fogle said as she returned to the group.
Jackie Funkhouser, family resource specialist and family support worker, was among those outside the hospital Wednesday planting pinwheels in honor of April being child abuse prevention month.
"It's important to make parents aware, and to bring attention to the issues," Funkhouser said. "With all the tragic stuff you see in the media so often, especially. We're all aware of child abuse, but this is a way to remind everyone that it is still an issue."
Other community members stopped as Frazier, Funkhouser, Fogle, and intern Jackie Price planted their pinwheels.
"This is an easy cause to latch onto, to show support for," Funkhouser said.
According to a Valley Health news release, in Virginia in 2013, "51,346 children were reported as possible victims of abuse and/or neglect."
Frazier said Healthy Families, supports families within Shenandoah County, usually with their first child. It provides the resources the families need in order to raise their children in a healthy, happy environment.
"It seems like you can get a lot of answers from the Internet, but having someone sitting down and talking to you, telling you, for example, when to start feeding your baby a certain food, that can make all the difference in the world," Frazier said.
Most research into organizations like Healthy Families has found that these types of supportive efforts are worthwhile abuse prevention programs, she added.
"There are unintentional moments where parents just are not educated about what to do with their children," Frazier said. "Doctors are very busy, and things can fall through the cracks. We try to prevent that."
Healthy Families is an organization under the umbrella of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia. The commonwealth considers the work Frazier and her team do to be vitally important in preventing child abuse.
Recently, the organization has run into issues spreading the word about their services. When Shenandoah Memorial Hospital had a maternity ward, Frazier's staff was able to visit new parents and tell them about the program.
Now that the hospital no longer has a maternity ward, they are having issues reaching those with young children.
"We're just trying to use word of mouth to let people know about us," she said. "But it's very important they do find out about us, somehow, because we can offer a lot of great resources."
Frazier's team educates new parents not just about how to care for their newborns, but they help them get jobs where necessary, finish their GEDs and also provide developmental screenings.
Healthy Families is free for participants. Eligibility is based on need rather than income.
"Healthy families means a lot of different things to different people," she said. "We serve 35 to 40 families right now, and they all need different kinds of help from us."
The pinwheels, she said, act as optimistic reminders of the importance of providing healthy and happy lives for children.
"They're definitely seen as a happy and hopeful symbol of childhood," Frazier said.
Those interested in obtaining a pinwheel to show support for child abuse prevention can call Healthy Families at 540-459-8558.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org