STARKE – Bradford County will now benefit from the program and services developed in Keystone Heights at the Answers Resource Facility with the opening of Answers’ second location in Starke. …
STARKE – Bradford County will now benefit from the program and services developed in Keystone Heights at the Answers Resource Facility with the opening of Answers’ second location in Starke.
The women’s interest organization was founded by CEO Joanna Weldon with one goal – to provide help with anything to any woman who asked for it. Now, with Answers having secured a medical director and now opening its second location, they are meeting that goal.
The Starke location has been in the works for about a year now, and Weldon is happy to finally be opening the doors to Bradford County. She said Bradford has higher than normal rates of STI infections, unplanned pregnancies and birth rates for teens.
“We really feel like by offering the education we’re offering, and being a place where women can come and have someone alongside them in their journey, that we’ll see a downward turn in those statistics,” Weldon said.
The new location will offer all the same services that are currently offered in Keystone Heights in addition to some new services that are being offered at both locations.
The addition of a medical director, a volunteer position filled by physician Joelle Simon, the organization will now officially be known as Answers Health and Resource Facility. The association with a medical director allows Answers to offer additional services like proof of pregnancy testing, STI testing and limited obstetrical ultrasounds. These services will be provided in-house by the nurses who work at Answers.
Weldon said they will also be offering HIV testing twice a month through High Impact HIV Prevention, an Alachua County-based organization that provides testing in under-served areas, as well as follow up counseling when test results come back.
She also mentioned their Life Skills University classes that offer women the opportunity to stop by for 30-minute “modules” that teach women things that they might not have learned through life experiences such as budgeting, parenting and basic nutrition.
“These are skills that a lot of us take for granted,” Weldon said. “We’ve seen a large number of women lacking those skills, which are typically learned in the home growing up.”
Weldon said the real eye opener came when a woman came to Answers looking for food and they helped her to a local food pantry only to find out that she had no way of cooking the food at home and didn’t know how to prepare things like dry beans.
Answers allows women to complete the modules and, upon completion, earn points toward gift cards and other giveaway items that are used as incentives for learning the things taught in the life skills classes, a system Weldon has dubbed Earn to Learn.
“We’re not just giving handouts, we like to say that we’re giving a hand up instead of out,” she said. “As a society I feel like we get very frustrated with people burdening the system, but people can’t do better unless they know better, so that’s the heart behind what we’re trying to do – help them know better so they can learn to do better.”
An open house will be held at the new Starke location this Sunday, April 15 from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Weldon said they will offer tours of the new facility in addition to a dessert bar provided by Sonny’s BBQ, Lake Swan Camp and Call Street Cafe. The new location will be open to women who need help of any scope whether that’s in the form of medical testing or a simple conversation with someone who cares. The hours will alternate with the Keystone location with Starke being open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., and on Fridays from 9-5.