A few weeks ago, Ohio’s juvenile court judges met at the conference facilities of the Polaris Hilton for the Ohio Association of Juvenile Court Judges’ annual winter educational conference. It’s a great opportunity for high-quality education and also a chance to sit and talk with other judges from around the state to discuss what issues they are facing and what tools they’re using to deal with them.
Every time I speak to judges from other counties, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to live and work in Delaware County. Judges from other communities often marvel at the resources that agencies in our county provide to Delaware County citizens.
Similarly, when I speak to law enforcement officers, agency leaders, treatment providers and educators who move to Delaware County from other places in Ohio or out of state, they consistently tell me that they are blown away by the level of communication and cooperation between Delaware County nonprofits, government agencies, treatment providers, schools, and other community groups.
Nowhere is that more true than with the United Way of Delaware County and the Delaware City School District. Communication and cooperation are excellent amongst all of our schools, but the partnership that the United Way and DCS have formed at the Willis Education Center is worth highlighting and celebrating.
The United Way’s Strengthening Families program has more than 30 partnering agencies, including all Delaware County school districts. It provides a variety of programming at the Willis Education Center, the administrative office for the Delaware City School District. Among those programs is the juvenile court’s Assessment Center, which is able to provide its services away from a formal court setting thanks to DCS and the United Way.
In addition to the main offices of the United Way, the Family Resource Center, open Monday through Friday from 8 to 4, is located at Willis. Its programs are open to all Delaware County residents and cover a wide variety of possible needs. Pathways to hope, a partnership with the Andrews House, can provide rent, housing and utility assistance. Neighbor to Neighbor is a program that can provide electric utility help through American Electric Power. And the Delaware County Diaper Bank houses diapers and infant supplies utilizing Willis’ former school lockers to store them.
The Family Resource Center is also home to the Pacer Pantry, perhaps the resource that has been in the greatest demand as inflation has strained the pocketbooks of many Delaware County families. As groceries and other foodstuffs have become increasingly expensive, all of the county’s food resources — which, in the spirit mentioned above, work cooperatively through the Delaware County Hunger Alliance — have struggled to try to meet increasing need, while at the same time finding that their funding to procure food also doesn’t go as far as it used to.
The Family Resource Center has worked hard to rise to that challenge, serving more than 1,110 individuals in 415 families through the first 11 months of the year. The work necessary to meet the need is immense, however, and the Pacer Pantry notes that they are in need of a variety of items, including toilet paper/paper towels, cleaning supplies such as laundry detergent and soap, hygiene products such as baby wash or deodorant, snack items, peanut butter and jelly, canned tuna and chicken, pasta, rice, ramen and cereal. Those items can be brought to Willis or dropped off at an arranged time by calling 740-833-1619.
The co-location of these many resources in one centralized location is an additional help to those who may need help from multiple agencies. It is Delaware County’s great fortune to be served by so many who care so much about their fellow citizens.
David Hejmanowski is judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, where he has served as magistrate, court administrator, and now judge, since 2003. He has written a weekly column on law and history for The Gazette since 2005.