What began as a capstone project for Lisa Marie Watkins is now permanently helping many women and their families who live in Price Hill.
While Watkins was a student in the Master of Public Administration
(MPA) program at Northern Kentucky University, she developed an innovative program, Healthy Homes, to improve the health and safety of at-risk families.
Watkins used her connection at Santa Maria Community Services
to launch the program within the neighborhoods of Price Hill. Months after she co-authored a grant application submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
, Healthy Homes received a $40,000 grant to help fund the program. The grant will cover the cost to pay staff but mostly will help the program provide much-needed items to the families, Watkins says.
Foster care played a large part in why Watkins wanted to build a program like Healthy Homes. She was 7 years old when she entered the system and traveled between foster homes until she was 18.
“I had a lot of people who loved me and showed me how to maneuver this world,” Watkins says. “It’s not easy. I was fortunate to be with foster parents who dedicated their time to show me love and also show me how to not let the past shelter my future.”
Watkins currently coordinates and oversees the program, which recruits and trains block captains
who identify families with children under 6 years old and/or a pregnancy.
Block captains reach out to families by going door to door and coordinating services. They distribute information and materials to help families connect to a pediatrician or prenatal care provider as well as provide baby safety items and books for children to improve literacy and help prepare them for kindergarten.
There are other social service agencies that want to replicate Healthy Homes’ model, says Chellie McLellan, Santa Maria’s Income Impact Director.
The program is successful now and has impacted the lives of more than 100 families, but building the program from the ground up wasn’t an easy task.
“We’re working to build an ecosystem,” McLellan says. “How do you build a boat out at sea? It was really groundbreaking for us. There was no manual or go-to guide for how to do this. It started with one block and one block captain and grew from there.”
• Help support Healthy Homes’ mission by donating
• Learn more about the Healthy Homes by contacting Chellie McLellan
• For more information on Santa Maria, visit its website