The name is the same, but much is changing at Right from the Start in Columbus.
Once under the umbrella of the Pastoral Institute, it is now a separate, recently incorporated, non-profit organization with its own board of directors.
Its offices have moved to the St. Luke Ministry Center on 11th Street.
Its new tagline is “Relationships Matter,” replacing “Building Strong Marriages and Families.”
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Its new website is https://rightfromthestart.org.
However, new executive director Ruthie Hite says what is important is that the goals are remaining the same.
“We want to lower the out-of-wedlock pregnancy rate, strengthen marriages to decrease the divorce rate and get fathers more involved in the life of their children,” Hite said.
She said this is all done through education.
A graduate of Clemson University, Hite began her new job in August. She spent more than 20 years in education as a teacher and media specialist. She is married to Brian Hite, the general manager at 107.7 The Truth radio station. They have a daughter Abbey Lee Orr who lives in Philadelphia.
Hite is excited about her new role.
“Relationships do matter, and Right From the Start is all about relationship building and conflict resolution. Our mission is to teach healthy relationships in our community, and we do this with several different programs.”
Right From the Start was begun in 2009 by a group of concerned citizens, including Molly Scarbrough who is currently on the board of directors.
Others on the 2017 board are Gene Cone, Linda Shinkle, Steve Butler, Perry Alexander, Janet Davis, John Hargrove, Theo Howard, Helen Johnson, Angela King, Karen Lewis, Nancy Sheek, Mary Lou Swift, Buffy Swineheart, Kuturi Edwards, Veronica Austin, Monica Cobis and Ruthie Hite.
“We know that strong families make for healthier and wealthier communities,” Scarbrough said.
She said almost half of the families in Columbus are single parent, and that the family breakdown has a great affect here — and it is not a positive one.
“The Pastoral Institute provided great support in getting Right From the Start established and provided the foundation for our work in the community. We continue to have a great relationship with the Pastoral Institute and very much appreciated the support of the Pastoral Institute,” Hite said.
“Our work at Right From the Start has grown over the years, along with the need for what we do, and we agreed with the Pastoral Institute that it was time to provide greater focus to this work through a stand-alone organization. We needed our own board of directors and our own development of community support, instead of being a part of another organization.”
“We will need community support more than ever,” Scarbrough said.
Working with Hite are program director Monica Cobis, relationship coordinator Veronica Austin and fatherhood educator Kuturi Edwards.
Cobis said the Christian-based organization builds relationships through classes and media messaging.
“We have impacted over 25,000 individuals in our community,” Cobis said.
Programs to help the relationship between couples include Preparing for Marriage and Elevate Your Marriage.
Programs to increase fatherhood involvement include All Pro Dads, in which fathers gather together with their children and experience positive engaging times, and Boot Camp for New Dads where skills on how to handle a newborn baby are taught.
“All Pro Dads is engaging dads, grandfathers and uncles to actively participate in the lives of their children. It is bringing awareness to the epidemic of fatherlessness in Columbus,” Edwards said.
One program Hite is proud of is REAL (Relationship Education and Leadership), which features classes which teach young people skills for combating challenges they face in adolescence. Every ninth grader in the Muscogee County School District takes these classes.
“We are excited about a new class we have coming very soon called Family Wellness. The class is designed for any family that wants to learn more about how to relate to each other in a positive way. It is about strengthening family through fun interaction,” Hite said.
She believes the fragmentation of the family has caused many of the recent issues with crime in Columbus.
Talking about the violence Hite said, “Oftentimes, we learn that the violence was the result of a gang activity or that it was perpetrated by individuals who have lost a connection with their own family. We all have a need to belong, and young people, in particular, are looking to belong to a group that supports them.”