CTC holds its annual meeting
The Communities That Care (CTC) annual meeting kicked off Feb. 9 in the LGI room at Whitehall High School. The program was titled “Hearing Our Children’s Cries” and included presentations, a featured speaker and an award.
Laura Long, president of Whitehall Area Rotary Club, was the first speaker at the event. She informed guests about the work the club is doing and how members work closely with CTC. The club currently has 32 members with ages ranging from 24 to 89. With priorities closely paralleling with CTC, Long discussed the work by Rotary of focusing on hunger in the area, career education and youth involvement. She went into detail about the work the group does with Whitehall Area Hunger Initiative, as well as the mock interviews it holds for 10th-graders and the upcoming career fair. The Rotary Club is aiming to have 40 businesses represented at the career fair scheduled March 7. Members are also planning on holding a Four Way Test speech contest at Whitehall High School in April.
Denise Continenza, family and consumer sciences educator with Penn State Extension, Lehigh and Northampton counties, and CTC coordinator, presented the audience with an overview on the accomplishments of CTC over the past year, including receiving the Coalition of Excellence Award from Commonwealth Prevention Alliance in June 2017. The group also helped introduce the Botvin Life Skills Training program at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School, first in sixth grade and now seventh as well. The growth of the Snack Pack Pals program, summer breakfast camp and community meals was mentioned, as well as all of the work with Whitehall Area Rotary Club.
Shari Noctor, chair of Whitehall Area Hunger Initiative, presented the Community Champions Award for 2018. The recipients were Leah Saliby, Lana Snyder and Janice Stavrou, who have worked tirelessly on the summer breakfast programs. They made sure to include reading and educational programs to keep the children learning during the summer months, collected and prepared the food donations and ensured that the program will continue to grow. The women were presented with certificates from CTC to thank them for their dedication and service.
The highlight of the meeting was the presentation titled “The Impacts of Trauma on Children” by featured speaker and educator Dr. Veirdre Jackson, founder and CEO of Living Strong Consulting LLC. This dynamic presentation detailed how trauma and stress affects children. Jackson employed props, visual aids, personal anecdotes and scientific evidence during her presentation to really make her point. From describing how the neurological connections affect physical health to throwing an egg on the floor to demonstrate fragility, Jackson captivated her audience for the entirety of the 45-minute presentation. One of her big points was that the biggest assists in “bouncing back” for children who have experienced stress and trauma are building healthy relationships and having someone believe in them.
“Stop waiting for someone else to show up! We are they,” said Jackson, imploring the audience to step up and be that person.
After the presentation, Continenza informed the audience there is a trauma-informed coalition in the Lehigh Valley.
Continenza took a moment to recognize a few honored guests in the audience. State Rep. Zach Mako, R-183rd, sat with state Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133rd. Also thanked were representatives from the offices of state Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15th, state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th, and state Sen. Pat Brown, R-16th. A big thank you was extended to Kate Rile and her life skills class, who catered the breakfast, and Whitehall Area Rotary Club for sponsoring the event.
Edward D. Hozza Jr., Whitehall’s mayor at the time, shared why health and human services is so important, as well as his thanks and appreciation for CTC and its work.
“You all should be commended for everything you’ve accomplished,” Hozza said, while stressing the importance of coming together and being a unified group.
The event concluded with a big thank you to everyone in CTC and to all who gave back to their community and schools.
“I think we are a shining example of what happens when a community comes together for a cause,” Continenza said.