OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee Healthy Start purchased a 3,200 square foot building after spending over a quarter of a century renting their office space. After prioritizing the growth of their team and being able to expand and provide more services to more families, they began bulging at the seams within their current location.
From the beginning of pregnancy to the time a child turns 3, Healthy Start teaches families to advocate for their own physical and mental health, especially those who face systemic barriers - poverty, racism, homelessness and more - that limit access to proper health care.
Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to ensure families have access to care and connect them to the needed resources for the family. Their team provides education, assessments for not only the children’s developmental milestones, but also for the mother in regards to baby blues and/or postpartum depression, home safety and more.
The local non-profit has provided intense services to the community for the past 29 years since 1993 and has finally been able to purchase a building of their own this year. Healthy Start wants to utilize this building purchase to expand services in the Okeechobee community that will promote better birth outcomes and ultimately, reduce infant mortality rates. It is located right in the heart of Okeechobee’s downtown area at 114 SW 5TH Ave., also known as the Osceola Building.
“When I was first promoted to the Executive Director position in 2020, I sat down and wrote a list of goals for myself in my new role and for our Coalition to advance and move in a new direction. Purchasing a building was one of the long-term goals that I wanted our team to accomplish,” said Andrea Medellin, Executive Director for Healthy Start.
“With the expansion of our programs, our services and community awareness, we needed additional space that would allow us to provide more in-depth, quality services to our local moms and their babies. This purchase was a huge goal for our team and we were able to accomplish it due to years of hard work, community support and dedication from our staff and board of directors. Our new, centrally-located space will allow complete accessibility to our community of moms and their babies. What a better way to celebrate 30 years of providing services to our local families than being able to purchase a building of our very own!”
Healthy Start provides numerous programs to Okeechobee County families including Connect (CI&R) program, their core home visiting program with evidence-based trained Care Coordinators, Car Seat Safety/Installation Technicians, Breastfeeding Counselors, Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression program and more. Over the next year, Healthy Start will begin developing and introducing more innovative and beneficial programs that are specific to the local needs in our community.
Healthy Start thanks Children’s Services Council for being the reason the team can initiate for the first time ever a Delivery and Postpartum Doula Program in the Fall of this year. There will also be a new Fatherhood Program and hopes of more Care Coordinators in order to serve more families.
“I see my role on the board not as an obstacle but an optimizer, making sure questions are asked but not blocking progress. Being a retired teacher and current mentor of students puts me in the mindset of encouraging dreams and doing what I can to help them be fulfilled, which is what this building purchase is. After 29 years in the community, it is only appropriate that Healthy Start manifests that deep commitment to the women and children we serve by establishing a physical commitment to Okeechobee.” stated Magi Cable, Healthy Start Board President, who has dedicated over 14 years of service to Okeechobee Healthy Start and their mission.
“It took 29 years for our agency to finally be able to purchase a home for our services, our programs and our mission. This purchase will ensure a permanent base for our programs, allowing us to continue to serve as the boots on the ground that supports our families and acts as a safety net for the maternal and child system of care in our community. With Okeechobee Healthy Start’s 30-year anniversary approaching in the upcoming year of 2023, we will have more surprises and announcements to share along the way with our community to help us celebrate all these years of service! We cannot wait to share all of our excitement and this new chapter for our non-profit organization with our entire community,” Andrea Medellin shared.
For more information about the Healthy Start Coalition or if you are pregnant or just had a child and need help getting connected to local resources, please reach out to Okeechobee Healthy Start Coalition at 863-462 5877 or visit www.facebook.com/okeechobeehealthystart