By Allison Collins
UNADILLA – Family Resource Network, based in Oneonta, has been serving chiefly Delaware, Otsego and Chenango counties for several years. Now, for the first time in the organization’s history, Family Resource Network is launching a satellite office, with a focus on community youth, in downtown Unadilla. Located at 183 Main St., Suite 1, the Family Resource Network Satellite Office will open officially with a July 20 grand opening.
Michelle Zuk, director of Family Resource Network, said, “Family Resource Network serves families who have kids with disabilities or kids who maybe struggle in school.” She added, “We help a lot with school situations and getting people connected with services.” Family Resource Network also offers annual autism trainings, restorative justice conferences, support groups for families and myriad workshops for kids and families. Though she noted that the new Family Resource Network Satellite Office will be “used for other things,” Zuk said site coordinator Blake Stensland will especially offer teen programming based on the organization’s preexisting Teen Scene model.
Zuk noted that, before heading up the Unadilla office, Stensland served as youth coordinator for Teen Scene. “It’s a longstanding program with Family Resource Network, but it’s always been just in Oneonta,” said Zuk. “We’re excited to get to offer [Teen Scene] to smaller communities.”
Before the expected July 20 grand opening, Zuk and Stensland said they will occasionally be on-site to welcome community members and seek their input. “In the summer we plan to be there as often as we can,” said Zuk, adding, “We want to get to know the community … and we’re hoping to hear from them.” Zuk said the office would definitely be open weekly on Thursday nights coinciding with the Unadilla Summer Concert Series. “We’ll have our door open and we’ll be handing out free popcorn, having people come in to see the space and [we’ll be] asking them what they want to see happen, especially the teens and youth.” Though Zuk noted that the space is still being prepped, she said that, by July 20, she and Stensland hope to have a firm calendar of events and office hours in place.
Asked about the decision to launch Family Resource Network’s first satellite office in Unadilla, Zuk explained that, initially, Family Resource Network received funding for the project. After a significant portion of said funding was pulled, however, Zuk said the decision was made to stay in Unadilla because of early bonds forged. “We had started in Unadilla and already made some relationships with kids and families,” said Zuk.
In the lead-up to the satellite office opening, Zuk said Stensland, particularly, has been hard at work painting and reimagining the interior as well as beautifying the building’s exterior. Zuk listed forming a theatre group, hosting board game nights, organizing a drawing group and setting up a coffee house atmosphere within the office as some of Stensland’s early ideas.
Stensland, who mentioned that she recently joined the Rotary Club of Unadilla as a way to “get the word out” about the office, said, “A ton of different things have gone into getting the space ready [and] making it a space teens and other people would want to come to.” Zuk noted, “She’s done a really nice job.”
Discussing the future and goals for the Family Resource Network Satellite Office, Zuk said, “One of the major foundations of our agency is building community and we just feel like there’s a lot of families that feel isolated or like they’re not connected to anything.” She continued, “At the end of day, if somebody can feel connected to their community, school or friends … then we feel good. It’s just about being a positive support in peoples’ lives.”
To learn more about the Family Resource Network Satellite Office in Unadilla, email Stensland at email@example.com, visit http://www.familyrn.org or call 432-0001. Family Resource Network and Teen Scene can also be found on their respective Facebook pages.