A Brighter Day

 A Brighter Day

Newport’s Brighton Center is working to help families and individuals become self-sufficient
Laura A. Hobson
Julie Van Brunt, 30, from Erlanger, Kentucky, found the training services she needed thanks to the Brighton Center.

“A home visitor from Every Child Succeeds [a Brighton Center program] pointed me to Brighton Center in 2017,” she says. It was there that she was able to receive training in its medical assisting programs.

Van Brunt received a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) designation in April 2018 from the center, which provides free training in adult education classes with a curriculum in a variety of subjects including medical terminology. She is now employed at UC Health in the department of neurology.

“My teachers have immersed themselves into my life. I want to immerse myself in someone else’s,” she adds. “There’s a lot to learn, but it tends to change your life.”

Van Brunt is just one of many adults who have been helped by the Brighton Center, located at 741 Central Ave. in Newport, Kentucky. The mission of the center is to create opportunities for individuals and families to reach self-sufficiency through family support services, education, employment and leadership.

Melissa Hall Sommer, senior director of family economic success at the Brighton Center, says, “We need to get people in the workforce.”

During its last fiscal year, the Brighton Center impacted the lives of over 43,736 individuals, from infants to senior citizens, through 41 programs across the eight counties of Northern Kentucky and beyond.

The Brighton Center has four major areas of concentration, which it developed thanks to a community-based survey performed every four years. They are services for youth; education, employment and financial education; the heroin epidemic; and organization. These areas of focus are a major part of the center’s strategic plan for 2018-2021.

The goal of the youth program is to ensure youth from school age to 24 have the support and services necessary to reach their full potential and are positioning them to achieve success in life. These services include the Homeward Bound Shelter, a 24-hour emergency shelter for homeless, runaway, abused, neglected and dependent youth ages 11-17; the Independent Living Program, which assists youth ages 18-21 in the Kentucky State Foster Care system in finding stable and safe apartments; and Project Safe Place, an outreach and prevention program for youth ages 6-17 who need help and safety.

With education, employment and financial education, the goal is to help adults find a career that allows families to achieve their financial goals. The Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board selected Brighton Center to serve as the operator and direct service provider for the Kentucky Career Center, which is Northern Kentucky’s largest career preparation and workforce development network and covers eight counties. Services include job search success workshops, resume and interviewing workshops, and professional networking opportunities.

The center’s plan for addressing the heroin epidemic is communicated to and aligned with the community. For example, Brighton Recovery Center for Women in Campbell County is planning to expand. Support is provided for those who have loved ones struggling with the disease. The goal is to be sure active steps are taken to ensure that needs of the families are addressed.

And when it comes to organization, the focus will be on implementing a data management system and other automation efficiencies allowing integration of service, equity and internal systems. In addition, there will be volunteer utilization and management, integration of a common Family Centered Coaching experience, advancing racial equity and definition of the public policy platform.

Founded by Rev. Bill Neuroth, assistant priest at Corpus Christi Church in Newport, in 1966, the Brighton Center continues to adapt to the needs of the region. When Neuroth started the center, he did so because he noticed the migration of people from Appalachia looking for work at Newport Steel and George Wiedemann Brewing Co., LLC. Neuroth started the center with volunteers at church to help people from a country setting adjust to an urban environment.

Today, services might include food, clothing and emergency help. Most services, including job training, are free of charge, with the exception of childcare. “During the recession, we met people where they were,” says Sommer. “We talk about people’s hopes and dreams and give them a vision of the future.”

The Brighton Center also has been recognized nationally because of the unique way it engages families, wraps its comprehensive services around the family and partners with them on their path toward self-sufficiency.

Race Forward, a national nonprofit organization with offices in New York and Oakland, profiled the center in its “2017 Race-Explicit Strategies for Workforce Development and Racial Equity in Healthcare and IT.” The center was one of eight programs specifically highlighted in a report published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research located in Washington on January 31, 2017. The report was entitled “Programs to Support Job Training Success: Innovations to Address Unmet Needs.” It outlined key findings and recommendations from Phase I of the research as well as a profile on Brighton Center. And the center is one of seven in the country selected for the Supporting Transitions to Employment for Parents’ pilot program offered by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Brighton Center has 187 employees both full-time and part-time on staff, but its volunteers number 1,817. “We couldn’t do anything without volunteers,” Sommer adds.

Major funding comes from the federal government, which includes the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.

Even with governmental help, President and CEO Tammy Weidinger, who has been with the center for 37 years, says that finding the funding it needs to offer the diversification of services is always a challenge. Those interested in helping can donate to the Brighton Center directly on its website (brightoncenter.com), participate in the center’s holiday drive (to which you can donate gifts, toys, food and personal care items) or volunteer.

For people like Van Brunt, the Brighton Center has made all the difference. “You become a family,” she says. “You come to a brighter spot.”