Pee Dee Healthy Start Joins the Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. held a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce signifying its new membership in the chamber. Chamber ambassadors joined Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc, staff and guests for the occasion.

When it began in 1991, the focus of Pee Dee Healthy Start was helping reduce the infant mortality rate and other negative birth outcomes for women and children in the Pee Dee.

Pee Dee Healthy Start was one of 15 federally funded demonstration sites created in 1991. It was administered through the United Way of South Carolina. At that time, the organization served six counties in the Pee Dee, which did not include Florence.

In 1997, Healthy Start transitioned from the United Way to Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. and was granted 501-C3 status.

Pee Dee Healthy Start now serves seven counties — Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg — and provides assistance in several areas to help strengthen families.

It provides health education, fatherhood involvement, mentoring and support, child development counseling and other services.

Madie Robinson, executive director and chief executive, said one of the primary goals is to strengthen the African-American family unit by improving the effectiveness of adult relationships through its Relationship and Education Program.

The Dannon Project offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives, she said. It provides training, job development skills, GED preparation and certifications for certain jobs. This program is geared toward adults between the ages of 18-24. Its purpose is to help educate, train and reintroduce them to the workforce.

The re-entry program helps people become whole, Robinson said. It helps them get a job, she said. She said these are people who need a “help up, not a handout.”

“That is where I see our relationship with the chamber,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that when the organization started it established a relationship with the businesses in the area.

“We had an economic development specialist,” she said.

She said women’s issues were discussed with businesses, especially those relating to pregnancy.

Decreasing the incidence of infant mortality is still one of the main purposes of Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. Through health education, the organization hopes to increase the knowledge and awareness related to infant mortality and poor birth outcomes, Robinson said.

Chairman of the board Billy Williams said the people that Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. helps need a lot of help.

Williams said space is an issue at the Pine Street location. He said his dream is to find more space within the next five years to operate.

Robinson said they are always looking for non-federal donations.

Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. is at 314 W. Pine St. in Florence.

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