These last five months have been the most challenging and scary in recent history.

Now to make matters worse, it is hot ... very hot. COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt the way we live, work and play in order to stay safe. I wish for all of us that this would be over soon, but in the meantime we must all continue to adapt, persevere and build our resilience to move forward individually and as a community dedicated to equity.

Here are some of the things the partnership has been doing to help.

Support for families: Parents of children ages 3-5 are invited to join the next Incredible Years series. It begins Aug. 6. There will be weekly meal gift cards and gas cards and play incentive pick-ups. In this virtual setting, learn how to promote positive social and emotional behaviors in your pre-school age child and learn how to establish predictable household rules and routines. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other families. Contact Jennifer Cobb at jcobb@depc.org to register for the next available session or to find out about upcoming Triple P trainings.

If you have children under the age of 5 and are interested in a virtual playgroup, please contact playgroups@depc.org. Kaleidoscope Play and Learn groups are designed for families who want to learn fun ideas for hands on learning, nurture their child’s positive social skills and increase their family’s healthy lifestyle habits. Circle of Parents, a support group for families of children with special needs, meets virtually each week. Parents may also call 252-985-4300, ext. 270, for more information on any of our programs for families or to receive one to one support.

Support for child care providers: Child care providers continue to be on the frontline providing essential services for families who are working. Most of them are open but not fully enrolled, so space is available for children 0-12. If you or someone you know needs care for children, please have them call our Family First Line, 252-985-4300, ext. 220, to talk about the best options for your needs.

We are also still recruiting for N.C. Pre-K for children who will turn four by Aug. 31. Spaces are available in child care, Head Start and public schools where each will follow special health and safety guidelines. We are working to support providers and schools with appropriate PPE and supplies.

Access to healthy food: One of our Healthy Kids efforts includes organizing the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program in partnership with Ripe Revival Market, L&M, Wards Produce and Greenville Produce to distribute food boxes of fresh produce to the community. Through this program, we have distributed thousands of boxes of fresh food to churches, Rocky Mount Housing Authority, summer feeding sites, F.I.T. families (Families Involved Together) and to our six F.E.E.D. child care centers who used the produce on menus and distributed food to staff and parents. Last week 3,800 boxes were distributed and we hope to continue the program through August.

Parents interested in participating in F.I.T. should contact Kelly Spivey at kspivey@depc.org. This is a great way to safely connect with other families who are interested in healthy eating and active living.

Building self-advocacy skills: Please continue to reach out to your elected representative and those running for office and tell your stories of how this disaster has impacted you, your families, your businesses and employees. Make your needs known so policy makers can take action to address them. To find out who represents you, visit https://www.ncleg.gov/FindYourLegislators. If you haven’t been counted yet in the census, please take 10 minutes and complete this important step in bringing resources to our community. It’s easy to do online at www.2020census.gov.

Preparing for the new school year: This school year is going to be like no other. As we move forward into these next few weeks, please try to stay in your resilience zone, not too amped up or shut down. Please remember that healthy kids are the result of healthy, supportive families.

Here are a few tips to help as we approach the school year:

  • Try to build something positive into your day every day.
  • Remember your social connections. Form a small learning group for your kids and as a support for yourself, especially after remote learning starts for many families.
  • Set aside time to understand what is developmentally appropriate for your child’s learning.
  • Educate yourself about remote learning. Reach out for help when needed.
  • All children need predictable routines. Call us if you need help. Triple P is a great resource.

Take advantage of virtual resilience trainings and listening circles provided by Resources for Resilience (resourcesforresilience.com).

We’ve been through many disasters together — none that have lasted this long, but we’ve always rebuilt better and stronger. I’m confident we can do this again if we continue to work together.