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New FACT director says goal is to improve lives

Staff writer

Families and Communities Together has a new director who hopes to build on the efforts of past leaders to continue to improve the lives of people in the Marion County community. Joy Mark of Hillsboro took over on Dec. 31. She replaced Ashlee Gann, who resigned.

FACT is an umbrella organization that oversees several Marion County social programs that benefit families and individuals needing services.

“I’m moving more in the direction of a tree rather than an umbrella,” Mark said. “The FACT mission is the trunk, and the various ways to improve lives are the branches.”

She said components that improve wellness include physical, financial, environmental, occupational, intellectual, social, and emotional aspects of life.

The McPherson native has degrees in psychology and religion and philosophy. She was chief information officer at Tabor College for five years, during which time she served administrative and educational technology needs for both of Tabor’s campuses. Before that, she worked in library and information technology in Kentucky for 10 years.

This is her first time working for a non-profit organization.

“A lot of the skills are similar, and I found a good fit here,” she said.

Mark praised former FACT directors Linda Ogden and Gann for laying a “great” foundation to build on.

“It’s been a steep learning curve for me, taking on the work of others,” Mark said. “It has been a lot of work. At this point, I’m trying to build a framework of specific goals to keep it focused. I love it. It’s a satisfying challenge.”

Founded in 1999, FACT gets funding from an annual state grant and donations. It oversees early childhood and substance abuse prevention services, Circles — an anti-poverty program, and a family financial assistance fund for such emergencies as rent, utility payments, or medical needs.

FACT pays for childcare during Circles weekly meetings and supports Circles leaders in studying the “big view” of poverty, its causes and effects.

The Early Childhood Task Force overseen by FACT represents all services related to small children, such as Parents as Teachers, preschool, and early intervention screenings.

Mark is acting chairman of Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, which meets monthly and is funded by a special county alcohol tax.

Most recently, the organization provided funding for after-prom activities at the five school districts in the county. It is helping the Goessel school district to present motivational speaker Jared Estes to students on April 20.

SAPC is responsible for the sign on the courthouse grounds that reads, “Parents’ disapproval is the #1 reason kids say they don’t drink.” Similar signs will be erected as billboards along well-traveled routes in the county.

Mark said any activity that aims to prevent alcohol or other illegal substance abuse could be funded through FACT.

“It’s all about collaborative action,” she said.

Another component of FACT services is parent education. Rachel Boden, a preschool operator in Goessel, is a certified teacher of “conscious discipline.” Classes are offered throughout the year.

Mark hopes to develop a relationship with economic development departments in the county to raise awareness about the correlation between social needs and housing.

Last modified April 14, 2016

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