Deep roots tangle and weave together in this earth – as dark as espresso grounds and often referred to as, “black gold.”
Belle Glade’s rich and loamy soil may be her fortune but those willing to take a closer look at this Western Palm Beach County community knows that there are also great riches in the roots that have been laid there.
Families in Belle Glade know one another by first name and they can rattle off family histories with ease – quickly telling you who was married to who, whose children they were and which part of town they lived in.
So when BRIDGES at Belle Glade found themselves in the panicked position of moving locations within the course of a week, they knew who to turn to for help.
A married couple owned the previous BRIDGES at Belle Glade location and maintained a child-care facility within the building. A year ago, the wife passed away and in her passing, the husband wasn't able to keep up with the demands of the building and the business.
The building fell into foreclosure and BRIDGES at Belle Glade had a week to move.
A mere seven days to find a new location, get it approved, pack everything into boxes and set it up for the families to use.
All while going through an audit.
Tasked with this Herculean venture, BRIDGES at Belle Glade Director Shilondra knew could rely on both her team and the Belle Glade community to pull through for BRIDGES.
“I wanted to make sure that people knew we weren’t shutting down,” Shilondra said. “BRIDGES at Belle Glade is still open. We’re still here for our families. We would just be doing it from a different location.”
Navigator Getsy echoed this sentiment.
"This was all about teamwork,” she said. “(Outreach Worker) Trenesia was able to notify our parents through social media. We made phone calls to make sure our parents knew that we were still here for them and were able to provide all the services, activities and workshops. We either scheduled to meet with them at our local library or the Bridges at Pahokee.”
Since BRIDGES receives funding from the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, the new location would have to be approved by the organization.
Shilondra and CSC visited three different sites in Belle Glade but unfortunately – none lived up to expectations.
Time was running out and the staff started to get a little worried about what their future held. Shilondra remained optimistic. She had faith that the community and staff like Child Development Specialist Michelle and Parent Coach Jean would pull through for BRIDGES.
Getsy even went as far as to provide BRIDGES families with her personal cell phone number.
“Most of the parents we had during the month were pregnant moms and they were actually referring other pregnant moms by giving them my number. After the intakes, I made sure these parents were able to meet with our CDS and Parent Coach to take the Triple P parenting class or participate in one-onone activities,” she said. “We actually have three days in order to submit all of our information into data system but we were able to accomplish everything on time in between all the chaos.”
Shilondra found a fourth location and hope sprung anew, but it was quickly diminished when was told no-one from CSC would be able to travel out to Belle Glade to visit the location.
Unwilling to be deterred and buoyed by a determination not to let her families down, Shilondra used the technology at her fingerprints to make sure the job got done by taking CSC on a video tour of the site.
On the very last day before they had to move, CSC gave their blessing.
BRIDGES at Belle Glade was getting a new home!
“It’s gorgeous,” Shilondra says, beaming proudly. “We went from the Funk Factory with rats to the Taj Mahal!”
Through it all, she never doubted the commitment and dedication of the BRIDGES at Belle Glade staff.
“What a blessing that I was able to be part of this,” she said. “We couldn't doubt any decisions that we made. We just had to move forward.”