`We Are Like Sisters And Brothers'

Ywca's Family Center Answers Range Of Needs With Friendly Counsel

April 22, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The YWCA West County Family Support Center is more than its rather stiff title would indicate, say the young parents who go there. It is family.

"The warmth, the way everybody sticks together, helps you," said Jackie Jordan, a GED student and mother of four. "I have joined programs and dropped out because I didn't really feel comfortable. [Here] we are like sisters and brothers."

The center, in a small suite on the ground floor of the Academy Junction Plaza shopping center in Odenton, offers parents of infants and toddlers free child care while they learn how children develop, earn their GED, practice cooking or work with counselors.

Alice Harris, the center's new director, plans to begin door-to-door visits in Meade Village and on Pioneer Drive, neighborhoods where she believes young parents and their children could benefit but may feel isolated without transportation.

The center operates a free van service for participants Monday through Thursday.

The center operates on a $200,000 annual grant from Friends of the Family Inc., a Balti- more nonprofit agency, and smaller grants that come from the county Department of Parks and Recreation and the Health Department.

About 50 families use the center at a time, with most staying involved for six to nine months.

Free classes, free child care and free transportation make it possible for participants to come to the center four days a week and use its services.

Jordan, 32, said she was picking up groceries from the center's food pantry last year when she decided to register for General Educational Development classes.

"For years I've been saying I want my GED," said the Severn resident, who is a cook at Rick's Cafe in Odenton.

Christina M. Tobash, a Jessup resident, is expecting her third child and making her third attempt to earn her GED. This time, Tobash, 20, also is taking computer courses and a class designed to help her plan a career in data entry, then find a job.

"That's the one thing that's good about the center -- it's got everything that I need," said Tobash, a full-time homemaker.

Ivy DeCosta was making sure her daughter came to parental skills classes when she read about the center's literacy classes.

Now, more than a month after joining one, DeCosta, 53, is head of the welcoming committee, looking for people to help her put together gift baskets and call newcomers.

"If I wasn't coming here for the education that I need, I would be sitting home doing nothing," said DeCosta.

The YWCA may expand its West County operation with a new building that offers a health clinic, more academic and job courses, and some of the recreation now offered at its Arnold headquarters, according to Karen Winne, executive director and CEO of the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

"There is a lot of growth going on in West County now," she said, "and what I would hope is to be able to serve people from every economic bracket and every group."

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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