Spending more time with family consists of simple activities that usually cost little but strengthen the ties that create lasting memories.

That is the basis of the Family Matters Project that is being promoted in local schools and is overseen through the ASAP (Agency for Substance Abuse Policy), which hopes to strengthen the ties among families and focus on positive activities involving every member.

The Family Matters Project was launched in Laurel County in 2017 and those Family Resource and Youth Service Centers who reflected the most participation in the 2018-2019 school year were recognized recently with a luncheon and awards.

The schools in Knox and Laurel counties with the most enrollment and participation were presented with $2,000 to use for their programs. The Knox County school recognized was G. R. Hampton Elementary, while Hunter Hills was the Laurel County school with the highest participation. The families receiving recognition was the Norman family in Knox County and the Perry family in Laurel County.

Christie Shrader, who oversees the ASAP program, said the success of the Family Matters Project has been highly successful in both counties.

"We started out the first year with 100 people and the next year we had 800," Shrader said. "Last year we had over 1,200 families."

Anita Bill from Knox County was one of those involved in the Family Matters Project. Her son Drew was in third grade at Jesse D. Lay Elementary last year and her involvement in the program was instrumental in strengthening the family.

"This was very interesting for us," she said. "We used the program and went to ballgames and other activities, went on small trips and did a lot of things. We went on family trips to different places, historic places. A lot of those things were good family outings and didn't cost any money. You can just watch a movie together or cook a meal. It all just adds to quality family time."

Ashley Perry, a single mother who juggles two jobs and college classes, also spoke of the impact of the Family Matters program. Perry said she had to rely on her mother for help with four children that range in age from 7 to 14.

"We watched a lot of movies but "Where the Red Fern Grows" was the favorite," she said. "Another night we sat down as a family and named what we liked about each other, and that was so wonderful for me to hear my kids telling what they liked about their siblings. When I ask myself who was impacted the most by the program - the kids or the parent - I have to say it was me."

Perry said that although she has a strong support group, she realizes that the parent is the strongest support children can have.

"They have friends, they play sports, they have aunts and cousins. But at the end of the day, they need Mom attention," she said.

Also speaking was Russell Jones, the regional coordinator of the FRC/YSC programs. Jones spoke about ACES, the acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences, and how those negative childhood experiences often develop into anxiety and depression for children not receiving a strong home life.

"Some of the negates of that is time spent with family," Jones said. "They say there are nine minutes that are the most important minutes of the day - the wakeup time of the morning, the time when they come home from school and at bedtime."

"The Family Matters Project is one of the greatest projects I've seen for having an impact on families," he continued.


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