sealPurdue News

September 16, 2002

Purdue award recognizes support systems for Indiana families

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – An agency that aids the poor in Porter County's highest poverty area will receive a boost thanks to an award from Purdue University.

At 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday (9/17) the Hilltop Neighborhood House will be awarded Purdue's first Inspiring Families and Building Communities Award at the Porter County Community Foundation annual meeting. Dennis Savaiano, dean of the School of Consumer and Family Sciences, will present Hilltop Neighborhood House with a $1,500 cash award and the Porter County Community Foundation with $1,500 for nominating Hilltop Neighborhood House.

"We received more than 100 applicants for this award, but Hilltop Neighborhood House stood out with its ability to serve multiple needs through Hilltop Childcare, Hilltop Community Health Center and the Hilltop Neighborhood Association," said April Mason, associate dean for engagement in the School of Consumer and Family Sciences. "Family service organizations many times don't receive a great deal of recognition for their work, and the School of Consumer Family Sciences wanted to acknowledge Indiana grassroots efforts that are meeting family needs ranging from poverty issues to special needs children to teen-age parents to cultural barriers."

The award is made possible by Purdue alumnus Paul Zmola. Zmola, earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Purdue in 1944, 1947 and 1950, respectively. Zmola also received the Friend of Purdue Award in 1992.

Zmola's devotion to the School of Consumer and Family Sciences ties to his wife, Gertrude, a Purdue Extension specialist in the 1960s who died at an early age. In honor of his wife, he previously established the Monhaut-Zmola Fellowship, which provides Extension educators with a study fellowship. He also established a fund to award outstanding graduate students in consumer and family economics.

"The Inspiring Families and Building Communities Award is another way Paul Zmola can impact families in Indiana," Mason said. "More than 40 children and their families in Porter County's largest poverty area rely on daily services, such as child care and school-aged programming, at Hilltop Neighborhood House."

During the last six years, Hilltop Neighborhood House also met the need for health care in this area, which at one time was identified as under served, especially for pregnant women and children. More than 3,200 low-income and uninsured people receive primary medical and dental care at Hilltop Community Health Center. The center provides radiology and laboratory testing at no cost and specialist care is provided on a sliding fee scale.

The Hilltop Neighborhood Association also operates a volunteer-run food pantry, and a neighborhood watch program is helping to curb drugs and crime in the area.

The runners-up for the Inspiring Families and Building Communities Award are Diversity Dynamics, DIPLOMAS, Families United for Support and Encouragement and Perry Central 21st Century Community Learning Center Lights On. The runners-up will be recognized at individual events throughout the year.

When Cass County's Hispanic population grew from 230 in 1999 to 2,905 in 2000, the county saw many new immigrant families struggling to adapt to a community that seemed unwelcoming.

Diversity Dynamics in Logansport implemented new programs to promote multicultural awareness to help all families understand, appreciate and respect their differences. Such programs include the first Hispanic cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes, English as a second language classes for children and adults, a bilingual library and a Hispanic Family Fair. Diversity Dynamics also created a housing task force to protect the rights of new resident families.

In Wayne County, DIPLOMAS In-School Childcare Program provides teen parents with onsite child care at Richmond High School in a nursery in the family and consumer sciences area. Eighteen teen girls and their babies are served each semester by the program's activities.

In 1995, the number of unmarried Richmond High School students who were pregnant or parenting at any given time averaged 70 to 80, and within 18 months of giving birth, the average teen mother would be pregnant again. DIPLOMAS requires 95 percent school attendance, participation in parenting and child development classes, daily instruction with the teen's own child and no second pregnancies.

Since 1995, 78 teen mothers and 79 babies have participated. All but four of those mothers improved their grades and attendance. Thirty-eight graduated from the program, and only a few needed public assistance after graduation. Child care is provided for parents during the meetings.

In Hancock County, Greenfield parents noticed a void in support systems for their special needs children in the mid-1990s. A parent support group, Families United for Support and Encouragement, was created by First Steps Council of Hancock County in 1996. Meetings are held monthly, and now there are more than 140 FUSE families who gather for support and information. At meetings, parents hear speakers and share information.

Perry Central School doesn't shut its doors when the school bell rings at the end of the day. The Perry Central 21st Century Community Learning Center's Lights On program is employing this school's resources to serve Perry County. The program offers this rural area opportunities, such as quality child care, academic challenges and the arts, typically found in more populated areas. More than 100 students receive after-school care, tutoring and enriching activities each school day. On a monthly basis more than 200 activities are offered to students.

The program also provides continuing education for more than 200 adults each month in subjects such as herbal cooking and beginning Spanish. Parent workshops are offered monthly, and parents can take advantage of Parents Night Out evenings. The school also turns its hallways into a walking course two nights a week so community members can participate in a variety of fitness programs.

The Purdue Inspiring Families and Building Communities Award will be given annually. Nomination forms for the 2003 award will be this spring.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: April Mason, (765) 494-8252,

Dennis Savaiano, (765) 494-8213,

Hilltop Neighborhood House, (219) 462-7173

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Related Web sites:
Consumer and Family Sciences Extension

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