A new year has brought a new director to the Great Start Collaborative & Parent Coalition that serves young children and families throughout Charlevoix, Emmet and Northern Antrim counties.
Savanah Cool, of Boyne City, has taken on the director position after long-time director Maureen Hollocker stepped down at the end of December to take on a national leadership role.
The mission of the collaborative is to engage multi-disciplinary partners and families to identify, plan and implement system change to strengthen families and improve child outcomes. Its vision is that every child in Charlevoix, Emmet and Northern Antrim Counties is nurtured, supported and achieves their maximum potential.
“I have grown up in this community and am raising my daughter in this community. For me, it’s about creating healthy communities and strong families,” said Cool. “How do we best meet families where they are today? By wrapping around them to share support and resources from the very start so they don’t end up in difficult positions or to ease the load when they do face hard times.”
The Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition has become highly visible in the region with efforts to do just that, including hosting free laundry events at area laundromats, Early Childhood Networking Nights, the FreeCycle book project, and distributing Talking is Teaching materials to encourage parents to talk, read and sing to their children in everyday situations to strengthen relationships and enhance learning.
Over the past 10 years the collaborative has positively impacted children, families and community members by following the mantra of making “small but significant changes,” said Jill Haan, Director of Early Childhood for Char-Em ISD, the oversight entity of the GSC.
“Our focus has always been on meeting families where they are at and building on their everyday interactions with their children within the communities where they live,” said Haan. “Savanah has shown her dedication to our region and possesses the qualities and skills to not only continue the current work of the collaborative, but also to bring her own perspective and leadership strengths to the work. I’m excited to have her on the team.”
Cool said her role will be to continue following the strong strategic plan in place for the Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition and its many community projects.
“We will continue to filter our work through the Strengthening Families Protective Factors framework,” Cool said. “I am looking forward to stepping in to follow Maureen’s lead and continue the great work she has done as we continue to support youth and families.”
In late 2021, Hollocker accepted a national position with the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance. She had headed the Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition for 10 years.
Cool spent two years as an AmeriCorps member with Char-Em ISD, mentoring and tutoring at-risk and high-risk elementary school youth in social skills, conflict resolution and literacy. She then served as the program coordinator and administrative assistant at the Char-Em United Way, working on projects such as Day of Caring, Project Connect, Stuff the Bus, Volunteer Connections and community grant making. For the past 11 years, Cool worked for the Department of Health and Human Services, filling various roles in child and adult welfare.
“Coming alongside youth and families to support their overall health and wellbeing is a true honor. Meeting families where they are, wrapping around them to provide the unique support, connections, tools and resources necessary to thrive is the most noble and meaningful work,” Cool added. “It’s a true honor to be invited in and walk this path with those we serve.”
The Great Start Collaborative & Parent Coalition is a grant-funded initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start. Char-Em ISD serves as the fiduciary and provides oversight for the GSC. Crissy Napont, Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition Project Coordinator, works alongside the director on the collaborative’s many projects. Two part-time parent liaisons, Jean Faivor and Liz Gee, and a number of volunteers, including the Parent Coalition, assist in the work.
Cool said the team hopes to grow the Parent Coalition, which is comprised of parents, grandparents, caregivers and educators that are interested in strengthening families and promoting optimal child development throughout local communities. The coalition meets monthly to connect with each other and stay informed on early childhood issues.
All parents, grandparents and caregivers are welcomed and encouraged to attend a meeting to meet other parents, make new friends and find out more about how the Parent Coalition can support them, Cool said.
Upcoming Parent Coalition meetings:
Thursday, Jan. 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Thursday, Feb. 17, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Register online: www.greatstartcollaborative.org
Contact lead parent liaison Jean Faivor firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
For more information about the Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition, visit https://greatstartcollaborative.org/.