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Joseph Chambers of the Dade County Sheriff’s Department at the Nov. 21 Family First meeting urged all to contribute to the department’s Hope for the Holidays charity fund, which provides Christmas gifts for needy Dade families. The dark substance accumulating around Chambers’ mouth is evidence of his own donations -- Dade deputies are allowed to grow facial hair for a $10 weekly contribution to the fund.

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter


Family Connection/Dade First held its final monthly noon gathering-of area-social agencies for 2013 at the Dade County Library on Nov. 21.  It will not meet in December.

The overall Family Connection mission is a broad one, to improve the lives of children and promote stable, financially independent families, and director Becky Page wound up the year by going over the organization’s success in that regard so far, as reflected by numbers complied by the “Kids Count Profile,” statistics compiled by the statewide Family Connection Partnership. 

Ms. Page raised her eyebrows at some of the numbers reported for Dade: “It’s hard for me to believe that our median household income is $41,233,” she said, reading from the statistics. “I guess everybody that I encounter, that would not be their median income.”

But others cheered her. “The good news is our educational attainment for high school graduates has risen to 83 percent,” she said. “When I first came into this position, we were at 67 percent.”

Dade’s population stood at 16,628, but Ms. Page questioned the numbers about babies born in the county during the last year or so. “So many of our babies are born in Chattanooga,” she said. 

In general, though, Ms. Page said the new statistics should prove helpful to those working on grants.  Family Connection is a loose coalition of various nonprofits, advocacy and social improvement agencies, many of which do depend on such grants.

One of Family Connection’s goals in the county for 2013 has gone well: “Attendance is better this year,” reported Dr. Catherine Wright of the Dade County Board of Education. She’s the official attendance czar at Dade schools, and stressing the importance of getting kids to class each day on time was a Family Connection priority in September.

Brittany Dee, one of the new health care reform “navigators” at Primary Health Care, said help is available there – those wishing assistance in enrolling in health insurance plans may walk in there and make an appointment, she said.

David Baker, director of youth programs at Lookout Mountain Community Services, said the health financing changes coming in 2014 may complicate things in his area at first as kids currently in foster care and assisted adoption move from funding through straight Medicaid to PeachCare. “We’re still not sure how that will affect how getting services for these kids will work,” he said.  “Be patient with us as we figure out how it will work.”

Joseph Chambers of the Dade County Sheriff’s Department said cutoff to apply for benefits under the department’s Hope for the Holidays program, which provides Christmas cheer to needy Dade families, was Nov. 26, but contributions are still being taken and in fact actively solicited:  The fund is down $4000 from where it was this time last year, he said.  “We’ll take money all year long,” said Chambers.

Chambers showed off the dark growth accumulating around his mouth and chin as evidence of his own contributions to the Hope for the Holidays coffers: During the Christmas season, sheriff’s deputies are allowed to grow facial hair – a divergence from the usual grooming policy – for a $10 weekly ante to the charity fund.

Chambers said the department is grateful for any contributions but as a rule prefers donations in cash rather than goods.  “We are crammed for space right now,” he said. “They use that money wisely and go after the better deals.”

The deputy also reported that a new rendition of the sheriff’s Citizens Academy – in which residents get an inside look at police life – as well as more CERT emergency preparedness training, which is offered under a federal initiative, will be available after the first of the year.

And he urged anyone knowing anyone in need of the department’s CARE program, which will coordinate volunteers to give shut-ins and elderly an are-you-OK telephone call each day, to give him a buzz right away. “We’re doing good on the callers,” said Chambers. “We just need to get the callees.”

Dade Public Library manager Marshana Sharp said she could recommend the CERT – that stands for “Community Emergency Response Teams,” by the way – training personally. “Every parent needs to take this class,” she said.

Ms. Sharp reminded the noon crowd that the library would open its doors on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 4-8 p.m., in conjunction with the annual Christmas parade, and would hold a fundraiser with silent raffle, all profits going to keep the library operating through the end of the fiscal year. “We have Canyon Grill gift certificates,” she said.

She invited all to participate in the library’s ongoing crafts, genealogy and computer classes. “We have something pretty much every day,” she said.

Dade First/Family Connection meets the fourth Thursday of each month – except for December, in honor of the Christmas holiday – at noon in the county library. All are welcome, and urged to bring company.



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