Bunnell, FL – Bringing together service organizations specifically geared to families-in-need, the L.E.A.D. (Love, Engage and Direct) Children event at Carver Center on May 21st offered a one-stop shop community services showcase.

Created initially as a Community Problem Solver project by students in the Flagler County school district, the L.E.A.D. Children program was solidified into a full-fledged community action activity in 2017, by students from Flagler Palm Coast High School.

Families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

Day of Action

Drawing in attendees from around the G.W. Carver Center in Bunnell, Pastor Daisy Henry said the team worked to get the word out to families who would most benefit from early childhood intervention programs and support, using social media and going door-to-door.

“This is a turn out for families and children to educate them on a lot of the programs that are available in the county,” said Henry. “There’s a lot of programs (here) and it’s a great turnout.”

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. David Williams, Pastor Daisy Henry and Wanda Williams. Families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

A longtime advocate for the revitalization of the Carver Center, former Flagler County Commissioner Barbara Revels greeted families at the door.

After visiting with a dozen service providers including Flagler Cares, the Flagler County Health Department, Flagler County Public Library, Flagler Schools VPK program representatives, the Hanley Foundation, and Help Me Grow Florida, families were treated to pizza lunches and gift bags with age appropriate books, toys and diapers.

“We have so many young mothers in our community and the information is just phenomenal,” said community advocate and GW Carver Center facility manager Bonita Robinson.

Carver Center Facility Director Bonita Robinson and niece attend the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

Since the Beginning

Mentor Irwin Connelly has been working with the program’s rotation of students since inception, where as a Community Problem Solvers project, won 2nd place at the International Conference in 2018.

The program uses a two-pronged approach, combining the child fair and resources for parents with the future incorporation of education into the school curriculum about the science of parenting. Connelly hopes that early childhood education will have an impact on the health, wellness and education of young families, resulting in long-term success.

Families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

“This is their annual child fair where they try to bring family service providers to the Carver gym. (We try) to encourage as many families as possible to attend and interact with the service providers in the hopes that the information will help them become better parents or caregivers, so that when their little ones five years or younger enter our school system they’ll be better prepared for success,” said Connelly.

Both Connelly and former Flagler County School Board member and current Flagler County Commissioner Andy Dance are proud to see the next generation of students’ efforts to nurture and sustain the community outreach program created with the foundational message that ‘every child deserves the opportunity to succeed’.

“It still lives on and it’s a very important service,” said Dance, who has been heavily involved in the Future Problem Solvers initiative for many years.

Families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

“It’s just involvement in the community – we have great coaches, support at the school district for that program and a community that supports what they do, and that leads to success,” he said.

Representing the L.E.A.D. Program, Flagler Palm Coast High School seniors Bryan Soudrain, Nick Bereznicki and Schneald Castor, helped organize the event, working closely with regional service providers to ensure a comprehensive program for families in attendance.

“It’s very exciting to see all these families here,” said Castor.

Schneald Castor helps families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

“I’m kind of from a background of the people that are here. Just seeing everyone who’s able to come out and contribute to such a big goal in the county is something that’s truly remarkable. I’m glad that everyone’s able to come here, experience different things and be exposed to a lot of services that they may not have seen before. It’s very important for us to do what we can to help these families as they grow,” he said.

Foster mom Jennifer Gagliardo picked up helpful information along with making connections for the children under her care.

Barbara Revels greets families ready to connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

“I was coming to look for resources for kids that come into my home. We were able to get a lot of cool giveaways, and visit a lot of booths. Some for counseling, and they did free vision tests on the kids, which was super cool. They don’t have to touch them, it was with a camera. We (also) got a lot of educational materials for the kids, and we went home with a bunch of books too, so it was really cool,” she said.

“This was really cool because I don’t feel like Flagler has as much as we need out here for kids, so being able to bring this out in our community was great,” said Gagliardo.

Families connect with resources at the L.E.A.D. Children Fair at Carver Center in Bunnell, Florida on May 21, 2022. (Danielle Anderson/Flagler News Weekly)

For more information on resources in Flagler County, visit www.flaglercares.org

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