The first thing you notice is the sunny nature of the place and of the staff. The next thing you notice is the great selection of toys and games. Through a child’s eyes, the visitation rooms at Joyful Connections must be welcoming and inviting. For a child whose parents and families are going through troubled times, Joyful Connections must seem like a wonderful respite.
The mission of Joyful Connections in Oak Harbor is to provide “a healthy, safe, and home-like environment where children can interact with family members in a non-judgmental setting.” Children of all ages, from newborn to age 17, are served.
Joyful Connections was founded in October of 2008. Judge Bruce Winters perceived the need and the Leadership Ottawa County class developed the plan. Since that time, Joyful Connections staff have hosted 2300 visits, 4500 hours of family time. Currently the four part-time staff and nine volunteers supervise visits for children from non-custodial parents, grandparents and siblings from an area that extends beyond the boundaries of Ottawa County. There are always two staff present at each visitation.
Sheila Powell, Fiscal Operations Director, says that “referrals come from various courts, from Children’s Services, or even from self-referrals.”
Ric Powers, new Executive Director at Joyful Connections in Oak Harbor, describes the efforts of Joyful Connections to accommodate families: “Anytime anyone wants a visit, we can schedule it“.
Powers, who resides in Oak Harbor, has over 20 years experience in the social service realm. He has been “very impressed with the judges and magistrates in Ottawa County.”
The facility is set up “to keep the visiting parties from meeting and interacting inappropriately. We offer no opinions, just record what is taking place, like if the family members are showing up on time, “ says Powers.
There are no televisions or video games at Joyful Connections, to encourage family members to spend quality time interacting. “It is interesting to watch a child show a parent how to play checkers,” said Powers.
Powell is grateful for the “generosity of the community. Except for a copier and computer, everything at the facility has been donated.”
On Feb. 11 there is an Open House at Joyful Connections from 5-7 p.m., to welcome Powers and because “we want everyone to know what we are doing. We always need volunteers and board members,” says Powers. And, as every parent knows, there is always a need for new toys.
Joyful Connections is at 8200 W. State Route 163, Oak Harbor. Their website is www.joyfulconnections.com. For further information or to volunteer or donate, call 567-262-3181.