My Turn Deja Garlin: Small Engine Makes Families Run First – Salisbury Post


By Deja Garlin

“All aboard the TPPI express,” shouts the driver as the Rowan community boards take their seats.

Excitement fills the air as the train takes off onto the tracks. There are stagecoaches full of families, smiling faces of all ages, but there is a section dedicated to a group of unique, young and talented people with more responsibility than the typical person in their class.

They are teenage parents.

For over 20 years, the Families First NC train has supported teenage parents with our Teenage Pregnancy Program. We serve Rowan County teen parents who are pregnant or parents, enrolled in school or a GED program, and aged 19 and under. We have helped hundreds of teens and their children on their parenting journeys by providing them with evidence-based model teachings, meeting their basic needs, educating them about healthy lifestyles, exploring the dangers of substance use and increasing mental health awareness.

This train continues to run, but at some point in its journey it needed a little help.

Similar to the American folk tale about the small engine that could, the Families First train was a stranded train unable to find an engine ready to take it over difficult terrain to its destination. The engines came in the form of letters from various funders saying, “Unfortunately right now” or “Due to unforeseen circumstances”. You would think that the great locomotive known to support and educate families with its foundation built on teenage parenthood would have many engines contributing to its success on the rugged mountains, but it all boiled down to a small engine, a small engine but powerful in its endeavors with remarkable results. Only the Little Engine is ready to try in this popular tale, and it repeats the mantra that rings true to this day, “I think I can.”

Centraide is our little engine that allows us to cross these difficult mountains. Centraide needs us Rowan!

They need us to give generously to their campaign, to support their causes and their efforts, because what they do for our community helps us in a major way.

When our community can come together and inspire each other to donate their time, money and talents to meet the needs of our community, then those resources end up going to our neighbors in need and creating a thriving community for everyone. And as we celebrate their 61st anniversary, we want to continue our partnership and offer support when needed. Thank you, United Way, for being our driving force.

Deja Garlin is the Adolescent Parenting Prevention Initiatives Coordinator for Families First NC

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