BEND, OR -- Healthy Beginnings officially launched its rural advocates program, this month. The nonprofit announced plans six months ago It planned to hire young parents in Prineville, Madras, Sisters and La Pine. Executive Director Diane Murray-Fleck says it took time to find just the right people. But, she says they’re now ready to start offering child and family assessments in each of their own communities.
She tells KBND News, "We’re already getting feedback from the advocates that this is so fun, and so in alignment with who they are as young parents, and who they want to be in their communities that it’s easy. And they also love being seen as an expert in early childhood development and helping kids remain healthy in their community." The advocates will host health, behavioral and developmental screenings for kids, and Murray-Fleck says they will soon add family assessments, "They’ll also be hosting a fundraiser, locally. One of the pieces of feedback I got, that I thought was gold, is ‘why are all your fundraisers in Bend? We love you in rural Oregon; we love you in Prineville. If you had a fundraiser in our community we would totally support it.’ So, this rural advocate pivot is really the answer to that."
She says the goal is to reach at least 30 families a year, in each community. The rural advocates program launched first in Prineville where, Murray-Fleck says, they’re well on their way to that goal, "We initially saw, I think, 23 kids. And, the rural advocate has already said she has 53 families that are interested in having assessments. So, I think we’ve tapped into something that’s been really needed and can be really useful. I think people respond to someone local, from their community."
Healthy Beginnings has provided free medical, behavioral and developmental screenings for local kids, up to age five, for nearly 23 years.
Pictured: Prineville Rural Advocate, Ryleigh Shiner with her two children