Since 1995, the folks at ABLE (Affirming, Believing, Learning, and Empowering) Families, located in Kermit, West Virginia, have been helping families throughout Mingo County in any way they can. ABLE Families Executive Director Marlene Spaulding describes the organization as a nonprofit, faith-based agency which has a variety of programs designed to provide resources to families, and help them make positive changes in their life that will in turn make them self-sufficient.
Programs offered by ABLE Families include the home visiting programs. These programs include PAT (Parents as Teachers) and MIHOW (Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker), and serves about 80 families throughout Mingo and southern Wayne counties. “The program is designed to improve health and child development,” Marlene says. “And these programs employ parents from the local community as parent educators and role models, who in turn educate families about nutrition, child health, and development, and positive parenting practices.” These parent educators also serve as links between their community, and medical and social services. ABLE Families currently has six parent educators, one supervisor, and one data collector.
ABLE Families also has an afterschool program. Prior to COVID-19, they served around 30-35 children a day, and they now serve around 22 to ensure that safety protocols can be followed. Children arrive at this program after school, and stay until 5:30pm, when they’re transported home. “While at ABLE they are provided with a warm meal, help with their homework, and a safe and supportive environment to help them grow into confident young adults,” Marlene says.
During the summer, they also offer seven weeks of camp. “We collaborate with a variety of partners to offer enriching activities for the children to enjoy. Our hope is that these summer camps broaden their minds to the possibility of what their future could hold.”
Working Together to Make a Difference
As Executive Director, Marlene oversees fundraising and grant writing, program development, and administrative duties. “I also supervise all of the day-to-day activities of the various ABLE Families programs,” she says.
She found ABLE Families 22 years ago, when she signed up to participate in home visiting services. After completing the program, she was offered a job and became a parent educator. From there, she held a few different positions with the agency, before finally becoming Executive Director about 7 years ago. “I was humbled at their confidence in me,” she says. “I am convinced the home visiting program I was a part of gave me the confidence I need to now lead the agency. It is always easy for me to believe in the programs we provide because I have seen it work in my own life.”
“It’s hard for me to choose just one service we offer as the most important,” Marlene says. “It is all in whose eyes you are looking through.” She attributes the success of ABLE Families’ programs to their approach. “The key to the success of our programs is that we use the strength based approach when working with families, meet them where we are, and believe them.”
While it’s hard for Marlene to pick the most important thing they offer, she doesn’t have any trouble saying what the best part of her job is. “My favorite part of being the Executive Director for ABLE Families would have to be having the opportunity to see not only the families we serve grow, but also the employees,” she says. “I am honored to be just a small part of the great things ABLE Families offers, and I am so grateful for the great team I have the privilege of working alongside daily.”