CASPER — A new social services center in Natrona County might be a resource for parents who don’t speak English, students who don’t have a place to sleep or a family looking for a dentist.
Whatever it might be, the center will be a partnership between the Natrona County School District and existing service organizations, such as the Mercer House and the Community Action Partnership, to serve children and families in Natrona County. The center would act as a referral service for established services in the area.
“There’s a myriad of possibility,” said Kim Ibach, coordinator for Natrona Community Outreach. “We’re asking parents what they need to meet the needs of their own families and kids.”
The effort to provide a one-stop shop for families seeking social services was loosely based on the Maslow Project in Medford, Ore. The Maslow Project was founded with the concept that basic needs — food, clothing, shelter — must be met before children can learn in school. The school district started the project, but it grew to become an independent, nonprofit organization.
District staff members visited the Maslow Project and researched similar organizations. Their advice: Don’t copy our projects but build something new.
“We want to make sure we’re setting up what Casper needs, not just somebody else’s idea of what Casper needs,” Ibach said.
Specific services won’t be known until after the group finishes planning this spring. A meeting has been scheduled for community members or organizations interested in being a part of the project on Jan. 14, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., in the cafeteria at the LifeSteps Campus. A big part of the planning is deciding which organizations will take the lead.
Some pieces are already in place. The district’s Family Resource Center has partnered with food banks and clothing donation centers to stock supplies at its space in Frontier Middle School. The Family Resource Center teamed with the Department of Family Services to offer counseling opportunities and hosted several parent workshops on topics such as managing money and Internet safety.
The district’s homeless liaison, Greta Hinderliter, helps students find a safe place to stay and school supplies. She’s one person keeping tabs on more than 150 homeless students.
“There are a lot of basic preventative things we can do as a community so we don’t have an escalated homeless issue or challenge,” Ibach said.
Contact Jackie Borchardt at jackie.borchardt@trib. com or 307-266-0593.