Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois Inc. will be having its first-ever, virtual event to shine a spotlight on challenges intensified by COVID-19.

The virtual event is named Build Resilience Forum on Children, Families and Communities 2020 and will include a week of virtual presentations at 4 p.m. each day from Oct. 1 through Oct. 8.

Family Services typically has a fall luncheon, but this year it was decided to have its virtual events in light of the pandemic. The event has raised $5,000 to $15,000 over the years. This year the goal is to raise $30,000.

Proceeds from this series will benefit families and individuals as they build resilience and stability through the programs of Family Services, a funded partner of United Way Blackhawk Region.

Programs under Family Services include: Domestic Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center (recently renamed Defy Domestic Violence Beloit); Sexual Assault Recovery Program in Rock and Green counties; Youth2Youth 4 Change; individual and family counseling services; neighborhood resilience project; and the Life Financial Solutions.

“We are hoping to raise $30,000 this year because of the longer program, and we think our programming is compelling and hope people will support us,” said Resource Development Director Pamela Prescott.

Although the virtual events are free, people can donate online at https://www.familyservices1.org/

The Oct. 1 kickoff program features Dr. Carolyn Heinrich, a researcher and advocate of early childhood development. In her presentation she will focus on key investment areas for a community when it prioritizes well-being for vulnerable children. Dr. Heinrich, a Wisconsin native and Beloit College graduate, is a professor of public policy, education and economics at Vanderbilt University and chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

“Our keynote speaker will speak about the importance of early childhood development and I think we all need to hear that message and take it to heart because children have been the silent victims of a lot of the difficulties we’ve experienced from COVID-19. We owe it to our young people to pay attention to their needs and focus on making sure they have resources and support,” Prescott said.

“Carolyn’s research and message are all about the good things that happen when communities invest in early childhood development,” said Family Services Board of Directors President Bill Flanagan. “Higher achievement levels in education, lower crime rates, a better-trained workforce, and more neighborhood stability where families thrive are all results of deliberate and targeted early childhood development that is embraced by a community.”

At 4 p.m. each day a new video broadcast will be shown from the event’s website.

Each day, new speakers will be featured, including outgoing City of Beloit Chief of Police David Zibolski who will speak about the lethality assessment program (LAP) to determine the danger victims of violence are in, police work with victims sexual related crimes and police collaboration with Rock County Youth2Youth 4 Change.

Beloit Snappers’ soon-to-be new owner and philanthropist Quint Studer, with a passion about early childhood development, also will be a speaker.

“We think he’s a natural advocate for early childhood in Beloit and he is happy to help us,” Prescott said.

Carol Wickersham, a Beloit College sociology instructor, member of the Rock Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA and chaplain at the Rock County Jail will be speaking as well.

Recordings of all sessions will be posted on the site for later viewing.

People can watch the full lineup of presentations and the silent auction on Sept. 28 at www.familyservices1.org/

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