Meeting needs and empowering moms
Sister Sarah “Sally” Neale wasn’t satisfied as a nurse. She wanted to help the people of Elliott County, but her work in health care wasn’t enough.
“I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the answer to many of the problems I was seeing,” says Sister Sally, a Catholic nun.
After talking to many women in the community, she learned that the biggest needs were job training and child care services. With this in mind, Sister Sally and Sister Maritia Smith opened Sarah’s Place in 1999 to begin filling those gaps.
“Our mission is to empower people with the tools they need to succeed,” Sister Sally says. “We focus on women and their children because it is really hard for moms to improve their situation.”
Two of the most popular services at Sarah’s Place are the nurse’s aide health care certification program and the child development program, which is the only state-approved child care facility in Elliott County.
The grant-funded, not-for-profit program expanded to include surrounding counties and has helped thousands of people improve their lives. Last year alone, Sarah’s Place provided more than 27,000 services to almost 5,000 families, triaged more than 3,400 phone calls for help, provided more than 16,500 hours of services to clients and taught nine classes.
“We really are a resource center,” Sister Sally says. “We get questions about everything. We may not be able to do anything about it, but we can refer them to someone who can.”
Aside from providing valuable job skills, one of the best things about the nurse’s aide program is the way it embraces technology to teach much of the coursework online. This is valuable for single moms who can participate in the class without worrying about what they will do with their children.
Nurse’s aide students will still have to come to the Sarah’s Place facility in Sandy Hook to demonstrate the skills they have learned, but the Child Development Center at Sarah’s Place allows them to drop off their children there during class and once they get jobs.
Ashley Traylor, chief executive officer at Sarah’s Place, says the facility also offers CPR and first-aid training, family caregiver classes to help families understand about caring for a sick or elderly family member and parenting classes. It also houses an income-based food pantry program that provides monthly groceries to those in need.
“We want to do the most good that we can,” Traylor says. “Sister Sally and Sister Maritia have a real love for this community, and they are willing to do anything they can to help people.”
In the future, the facility hopes to provide classes in Morgan and Carter counties for people with limited transportation as well as provide basic computer classes.
“Technology is the way of the future; there is no doubt about it,” Sister Sally says. “Many people have very basic computer skills, and we hope to provide computer training in the future.”