Tonika, a mother of two from Manatee County, had reached her breaking point. With an unstable living situation, no job, and no support, she did not know where to seek help. The difficulty navigating services and the time it cost her almost made her give up. Thankfully, Tonika met Tina Wilson, First 1,000 Days Navigator.
Wilson did best by listening to Tonika’s story and utilizing the network of more than 90 partner agencies through the First 1,000 Days Suncoast initiative. Utilizing a revolutionary collaboration platform, Unite Us, Wilson sent quick, secure electronic referrals to appropriate services and ensured Tonika received help. Partner agencies that assisted her included the Women’s Resource Center, Mothers Helping Mothers, Sarasota Medical Pregnancy Center, Meals on Wheels PLUS, Galatians 6:2, and Care Net Manasota Pregnancy Center.
Since her initial encounter with Wilson, Tonika has secured a job and received essential baby items for her children; assistance with transportation to doctors’ appointments for herself and her children; food; parenting education and support; and after a long road of unstable housing and homelessness, Tonika now has a safe place she and her children can call home.
“I could just cry. I have come a long way and now my children are happier and more joyful,” Tonika said.
Tonika was extremely grateful for how First 1,000 Days changed her life; she was inspired to join the First 1,000 Day’s Parent Advisory Committee. One of the initiative’s top priorities is empowering parents to be community leaders, ensuring parent voices lead its work. The Parent Advisory Committee is a place for parents to come together, learn, share, and lead others.
“First 1,000 days is a critical partner in the Unite Florida network. It’s amazing to see the whole-person impact of coordinated care within Manatee and Sarasota counties and throughout the state,” said Megan Diehl, State Network Director at Unite Us. “Our goal is to seamlessly connect residents to health and social care services that will enable them to thrive and live healthier lives. To see Tonika’s journey is inspiring and shows how collaboration can be leveraged to improve health across communities.”
First 1,000 Days Suncoast began its work in Sarasota County four years ago when the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation spearheaded its efforts in partnership with Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and many foundational nonprofits and local foundations. Recently the initiative has expanded its reach into Manatee and DeSoto counties thanks to the generosity of the Manatee Community Foundation, Elsa and Peter Soderberg Foundation, as well as many individual donors. Over the last year, First 1,000 Days has helped 183 families navigate resources.
Wilson and the First 1,000 Days team look forward to helping many more families like Tonika’s. Because of the dedication and hard work of professionals in the First 1,000 Days network, the community continues to move from a maze of resources to a coordinated system of care.
“Life doesn’t come with a manual,” said Wilson. “I love my job because I get to help parents find the resources so they can do what they do best—nurture, support, and love their children.”
Authored by the team at First 1,000 Days.