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Kelly Romanoff and Tonika Conaway are serving as co-chairs of the First 1,000 Days Suncoast steering committee.Parent advisor Tonika Conaway and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation Senior Vice President Kelly Romanoff have been selected as co-chairs of the Steering Committee of the First 1,000 Days Suncoast initiative.

First 1,000 Days Suncoast is a network of nonprofit agencies and healthcare providers that addresses system barriers, builds community partnerships, and coordinates free and affordable services for families during pregnancy and the first three years after birth.  Under Conaway and Romanoff’s leadership, the Steering Committee helps guide the initiative’s direction and expand the involvement of parents and partners.

“Partnerships are the pulse of our work,” said Dr. Chelsea Arnold, initiative manager of First 1,000 Days Suncoast.  “Co-creating strategies with nonprofit professionals and parents who have lived experience is key to building effective, sustainable, and equitable programs for families.  I admire Tonika and Kelly’s passion for helping others and know they have the heart, knowledge, and leadership to extend the breadth and depth of our collective work.”

With Sarasota Memorial Health Care System as the backbone organization of the initiative, First 1,000 Days supports and connects families with resources during pregnancy and throughout a child’s all-important first 1,000 days, when critical development occurs.  A key component of the initiative is parent empowerment, helping parents to be their child’s first and best teacher as well as leaders in their own communities.  To model this commitment to parent empowerment, Conaway is the first parent helped by the initiative who will serve as co-chair of the Steering Committee.

According to Conaway and Romanoff, shared goals during their two-year leadership term include:

  • increasing the number of parents who share their lived experience with the initiative to help shape programs and partnerships;
  • expanding the number of partner agencies throughout the 12th Judicial Circuit that participate; and
  • collaborating with parents, nonprofit professionals, and initiative staff to develop a five-year strategic plan.

A mother of two, Conaway was raised in Sarasota, attended the Roy McBean Boys & Girls Club in her youth, and graduated from Booker High School.  She is in the process of becoming a caseworker with a mental-health and addiction-treatment provider.  After receiving life-changing support through First 1,000 Days Suncoast, she volunteered to serve on the initiative’s Parent Advisory Committee.  “I took on the role [of Steering Committee co-chair] because I want to be the voice for my culture,” said Conaway.  “I want this initiative to be taken advantage of more in the communities I grew up in.”

Romanoff is senior vice president for strategy and evaluation at Baranick Foundation.  She was the Foundation’s point person in researching, developing, and launching First 1,000 Days locally in 2018.  Romanoff has remained actively involved with the initiative, focusing most recently on research and evaluation to ensure continuous improvement and share lessons learned with other communities.  “Together, Tonika and I represent the joint efforts of parents and professionals in our community to help families provide a safe, stable, loving environment so every child can have a strong start in life,” said Romanoff.

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About Barancik Foundation

The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida.

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