Valdosta Daily Times

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September 19, 2010

Promoting health awareness

VALDOSTA — Parents and children spent Saturday learning about health awareness and community services offered during a health fair hosted by Project Light.

“We (are) just trying to open it (event) up so the women know what’s available to them,” Gloria Harris, Project Light therapist and coordinator of community events, said. “It’s awareness for all of Behavioral Health Services. We just want the community to be aware of us.”

Saturday was Project Light’s second year hosting the health fair. “We’re just going to try to make it bigger and bigger each year,” Harris said.

Community agencies came out to provide literature and answer questions. Teen pregnancy, fire safety, sexually transmitted diseases, date rape, child safety, child protection, substance abuse and dental hygiene were some of the public awareness topics.

Parents could also take home free child identification safety kits, which allows parents to include their child’s dental information, photograph, personal information, hair sample, finger print and more. “So God forbid, if something ever happens, the parent will have this to give police,” Donna Gonzalez, Project Light, said.

The Valdosta Fire Department provided children with important fire safety prevention tips  through its Kid’s Safety House.

“I always have fun when I work with the kids,” Sergeant Chris Feuerstein said.

As children sat inside the house, Feuerstein taught them about fire safety, such as cooking safety, smoke alarms, not playing with matches or lighters and more.

After the instruction, a fire alarm went off as a fog machine filled the room with smoke. With Feuerstein as their guide, children felt their way through the kitchen and into the bedroom on their hands and knees, as they made their way safely out of the house.

Children age three and up usually understand the program and learn how to evacuate and meet outside at the designated meeting place, Feuerstein said.

The program is beneficial because studies have found that children are sleeping through smoke alarms, she said, so it is recommended that parents practice with their children during the night.

Latasha Fountain brought her two children, Diamond, 6, and Jeremiah, 2, to teach them about fire safety and other issues the fair was covering.

“(I came) just to show that she knows all about fire safety and try to teach him more,” Latasha said.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College’s dental students presented image results of the affects of smoking and were there to discuss the importance of oral hygiene, Hope Arnold, instructor, said.

“There’s definitely a need for it,” Jennifer Hudson, student, said. “A lot of people don’t understand the importance of taking care of your teeth.”

“We just want to help the community,” Jessica Jones, student, said.

Shelter Plus Care houses people that are homeless and have substance abuse and/or mental problems. Employees of the program attended the event to meet with individuals and show support for people in their program.

“We just bring some of the clients to educate them and show them some of the resources available to them,” Carla Smith, social services technician III, said.

The Partnership Health Center, a free clinic for the working uninsured, wanted to let the community know of its services and how they can help those in need.

“They (doctors, nurse practitioners and staff) see people for free that fall between the cracks,” Amy Draper, director of development, said. “It’s been a wonderful thing for the community and we have over 1,000 (patients).”

Curves used a 12-step flexibility chart to show parents and children stretching essentials to better health.

“(I’m here) just for community support of women and children,” Kelly Roberts, fitness instructor, said.

Curves was created to build confidence and strength in women and their families, she said.

The Haven attended to promote domestic violence awareness to the community by handling out flyers and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department dropped off child safety phamplets.

Parents and children also had fun as they enjoyed free snow cones and Subway sandwiches, while children played in the bounce house.

Project Light is a program for substance abusing women and their children. It is a program within Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia, which serves the counties of Brooks, Cook, Echols, Lanier and Lowndes. Women served by Project Light are at least 17 years of age and pregnant and/or have dependents. For them, substance abuse is a barrier to employment. Project Light provides a nurturing environment to pregnant and postpartum women who need help to recovery.

“Addiction and mental health is something that affects anyone,” Gonzalez, said. “(We’re here) just to let them know that we’re here for them ... If they can get the help they need, they’re back on the road to living successful lives.”

Project Light’s office is located at 1108 S. Patterson St. in Valdosta and is open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about Project Light, call (229) 245-6410.

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