Schoenbaum Center a welcome addition to Charleston’s west side


Staff Writer “The State Journal” July 29, 2002



CHARLESTON — Helping families from newborns to grandparents, the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center has become an overnight cornerstone in Charleston’s west side.

The Community Council of the Kanawha Valley Inc., which has since become LifeBridge Inc., came up with the idea to create a center that could meet the many needs of families in one centralized location.

“We strictly attract tenants for family care needs. We have everything from nurse practitioners on staff to literacy volunteers,” said Loretta Jett Haddad, executive director of the enrichment center.  “We have an integrated service component here that makes us unique. There’s not another center quite like us in existence that we know of.”

The center is located in a former manufacturing facility near the Patrick Street Plaza that had sat vacant for at least 10 years. When members of the community council came up with the idea to create the center, they sought out the building that has since been completely converted into a full-service family enrichment center.

“This building project was designed to meet the needs of the program,” Haddad said. “The visual appeal of the building alone, has brought a big boost to this area.”

Once the idea was put into motion to bring an enrichment center to Charleston, the city of Charleston jumped in to become an early partner. Shortly after the city’s support, Haddad said Mrs. Alex Schoenbaum stepped in to offer additional support to the project.

“The Schoenbaums had been looking to help build an enrichment center in this area for awhile, so when this opportunity came up, Mrs. Schoenbaum immediately said she would like to help,” Haddad said. “With these three groups together, we were able to get the enrichment center moving and had our grand opening on Jan. 2.”

With modern design elements, new furniture and new children’s toys throughout the building, the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center looks more like an upscale daycare/health care facility.

“Regardless of a person’s income, everyone wants to have nice facilities when going to see the doctor or anything else,” said Brian Holmes, program support leader.

Martha Cook Carter, executive director of Women Care Inc. (FamilyCare Inc.), said the operations allow the center to treat the health care needs of the entire family.

With most services being made available on a sliding scale basis, FamilyCare services include check-ups, immunizations, prenatal care, sport physicals, health care for seniors and mental health counseling.

Two services the health care facility would like to offer but have been unable to receive funding for are dental services and an on-site pharmacy.

“We have a dental room but are still trying to secure funding to bring in a dentist and supplies,” Carter said. “Often, adults on Medicaid have horrible dental health and as a result, children often do too.”

Right now, the dental room is vacant, aside from basic equipment. Also missing is the pharmacy that Carter said would be a great addition to help families improve their health.

“Too often, a doctor writes a prescription that never gets filled because someone is too busy to drive to a pharmacy or just because they don’t have the money,” Carter said. “The problem with bringing a pharmacy to the enrichment center is we need start-up capital so we’re still seeking funding for that project as well.”

While FamilyCare still has some projects in the works for the enrichment center, Haddad said the health care partner is one of the highlights of the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center.

“Everyone here loves going over there because there’s always beautiful little babies to see,” Haddad said.

Haddad speaks about FamilyCare as if it is part of her job, just as Carter talks about the literacy volunteers as if it were part of her job.

“It’s great to talk about the facility, but it’s the integration of services that really makes the enrichment center great,” Carter said.

With the recent addition of Charleston Housing, Haddad said traffic has almost doubled at the enrichment center and all the partners are benefiting.

“They’re newer to us, but since they have been here, we find people that come in to file applications for housing, are utilizing other services they find as well,” Haddad said.

Working as one cohesive unit has been a growing theme for the enrichment center.
    “Our staff at FamilyCare has really started thinking that they are a part of every other group that’s located here and everyone has really started working together. With so many different partners, it’s amazing how everyone really sees their jobs as benefiting someone else that works in another part. No one here is secluded. We may all have different jobs to do but we work really well together.”

While health care is an obvious need for all members of the family, a unique service the center has brought is Literacy Volunteers of America-West Virginia.

“We offer literacy help for adults at no cost to them,” said Paula Smith, administrative assistant for literacy volunteers.

“The services we offer are confidential and are goal-oriented language programs. We’re going to be opening a resource and training room soon with at least four computers, which is the first time ever that state direct services will be offered.”

A third partner is the Regional Family Resource Network (RFRN), which is a unique service from all the others offered at the center, according to Executive Director Michele Baranaskas.

“We’re unusual from all the others because we don’t provide a direct service,” Baranaskas said. “We pull together providers to find out what counties need.”

The RFRN operates with the idea to empower local communities to act creatively to solve problems and improve communities.

“We develop strategic plans to help communities help themselves, essentially,” Baranaskas said. “We give citizens a place to go when they have an idea and help make it happen. Often it’s easy to come up with a way to improve a community but difficult to make it happen. We give them a place to go, a starting point.”

Other partners at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center include the Kanawha County Public Library System, Opportunities Industrialization Center, Parents as Teachers Learn and Play, Regional Family Resource Network, LifeBridge Information and Referral, LifeBridge Non-profit Services and LifeBridge Parents as Teachers.

“We have really avoided overlapping any services,” Haddad said. “We try to attract complimentary services.”

Currently, Haddad said the enrichment center has filled about 90 percent of its tenant capacity.

“All we want to do is make the family experience as easy and rewarding as possible,” Haddad said.

For more information, visit the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center’s Web site at or call 304-414-4400.