Helping families help themselves was a top goal

Audrey Morris

Audrey Morris

April 29, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Helping families help themselves was something Audrey Morris wanted for her community.

"I wanted a full family resource center that offered courses in nutrition, teen pregnancy prevention, job readiness skills and parenting and literacy classes with no eligibility requirements, such as income," Morris said.

Morris knows firsthand how hard it is to raise a family. When her children were young, she became a single mother and saw the need for a place where parents could get the help they needed, she said.

"Each family has diverse needs, and my thought was a place where they all come together to network with each other and find the agency to fulfill their needs," Morris said.


Morris, a Berkeley Springs High School graduate, noted, "I grew up in this community and I was fortunate to have family support that helped and encouraged me, but I saw other people struggling that did not have that support."

Morris said she used the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families in Hagerstown as her model for Starting Points. She said many community members helped to bring the program to Berkeley Springs.

Morris has been the Starting Points director since it opened in 1999.

The nonprofit organization on North Washington Street provides family support and education through its programs that include a socialization and recreational "Playgroup" for children ages 3 to 5; responsible parenting and life management classes from nutrition to financial management to improving parenting skills; literacy tutoring; and coordinating services with other agencies to meet family needs.

Because of the interaction they've had through the Starting Points programs, many families' lives have changed, she said.

Starting Points has grown to include a soup kitchen that began in 2005 after a need was identified, Morris said.

The soup kitchen is a community effort by area church volunteers, civic organizations and businesses, she said. More than 6,000 meals were served in 2006.

Morris said she was excited about the newest program at Starting Points called Plausible Pumps, a job-readiness program for women that partners with the Shenandoah Women's Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., she said.

The program offers assistance in résumé preparation and job search and provides mock interviews. It also has appropriate work clothing available for applicants to wear to interviews and on the job, she said.

The resource center's funding comes from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Children and Families, which contracts with Shenandoah Valley Medical System in Martinsburg, Morris said.

Shenandoah provides the oversight for the Berkeley Springs Starting Points center, she said.

"Although the community has always been extremely supportive of the Starting Points project, each year is a financial challenge to sustain programming," Morris said.

"One of our goals is to secure long-term funding stability."


Name: Audrey Morris

Hometown: Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Occupation: Director, Morgan County Starting Points Family Resource Center

What was your proudest moment?: "The births of each of my three children, who are now teenagers. They are great kids. We have fun together and we still like each other."

Whom do you most admire and why?: Her mother. "She was always a hard worker and always provided what we needed. She is always very giving to us as well as other people, and she always supported me. I admire her work ethic as well as her personal belief in what's right. In today's society, so much is perceived as gray instead of black and white. She ... taught us right from wrong."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "If you want to save the children of the world, you have to save your own first." Becky Stotler of Berkeley Springs.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: Get a college degree. "I want to start back to Shepherd University after my kids are a little older."

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