published Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

2012 Summit on Families and Youth focuses on family health in Bradley County

  • photo
    Brenda Hughes is founder of the Bradley Initiative For Church And Community.
    Photo by Randall Higgins /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A campaign to raise awareness of what makes healthy families begins Saturday with a meeting of community leaders.

The 2012 Summit on Families and Youth will bring together local church, civic, community, business and government leaders at Johnston Woods Recreation Center.

The project has been two years in the making, said Brenda Hughes, executive director of Bradley Initiative for Church and Community. During that time, initiative members have listened to more than 1,000 people and formed a community factfinding group to address how teens are influenced by drugs, gangs and crime, she said.

"We are told our community is going to explode in terms of growth," Hughes said. "And that can be good. But when you are growing jobs and amenities, these challenges can also be growing."

Early on, the group found that one in 21 Cleveland and Bradley County students appeared in Juvenile Court from 2009 to 2011. One in 14 were involved in campus court, where volunteer referees hear family cases and try to resolve problems before they get to Juvenile Court.

A new program, called Transitions, will focus on the entire family.

Both the city and county mayors will launch a public awareness campaign during Saturday's summit. The July-September campaign is timed for the beginning of the school year. When children move into middle and high school, they are at their most vulnerable, Hughes said.

The campaign will include billboards, paid for by some local banks, inserts for church bulletins and programs for other meetings, space in newsletters from various groups and newspaper advertising.

The campaign advertising also will include a list of agencies offering family help, not just to kids in trouble, Hughes said.

"Today's families are struggling to deal with issues that negatively impact the physical, mental and social well being of our children," Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.

"One goal of the summit is to brainstorm practical ways for families to be stronger and healthier," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said. "One idea is to encourage families to eat a meal together each day. Too many times families don't share a meal together and just ask how each other's day is going."

"When the tornadoes took place last year, our community pulled together as one," Hughes said. "Our community is wonderful about doing that. I think our community can come together for families, too. Families are at the core of everything."

Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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