Julie Baumgardner Says It All Boils Down To The Home

Friday, March 21, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

President and CEO of First Things First Julie Baumgardner told the Chattanooga Civitan Club, "It all boils down to the family, to what's happening at home." The organization, founded in 1997, was started as an effort to strengthen families in the area when it was discovered that the divorce rate in Chattanooga at the time was 50 percent higher than the national average.

Since that time, the rate of divorce filings has decreased 29 percent and the rate of divorce has decreased 26 percent.

The most dramatic change has been the rate of out of wedlock births, which has decreased 63 percent.

President Baumgardner emphasized that working to build strong families does not just help individuals; it helps the entire community. A person with an out-of-wedlock child and with no high school diploma has an 83 percent chance of being in poverty. Children with absent fathers are also exponentially more likely to have behavioral issues or even end up in jail.

First Things First works to change this through educating people, reaching over 14,000 people every year through their programs and classes. The classes range in topics from marriage, to parenting, to healthy dating relationships. She said, "What we try and do is give the people the information they need to make good decisions."

One of their programs, called Work Smart Live Well, teaches often overlooked job skills such as resume-writing, workplace attire, and relating to coworkers. These "soft skills" can make or break a job interview no matter what else someone is qualified to do. Within the last year, this program helped place 164 unemployed people into full or part-time jobs.

Another program focuses on fathers who have gone to jail. She said upon being released from jail, many men have child support payments to make. If they get behind on these payments, they lose their driver's license. They can also end up back in jail.

 To break this cycle, First Things First worked with the court system to develop an alternative. In the program, fathers are taught how to improve their relationships with their children and what it means to be an involved father. Studies show that a high percentage of fathers to children born out of wedlock will walk out of the child's life within a few years. First Things First seeks to change this.

At this point in time, 93 men have graduated from this class and only three have returned to jail. Based on the average cost per year of keeping an inmate in jail, this has saved the taxpayers approximately $2,677,120. This program has also resulted in 55 job placements.

Yet another focus of First Things First is working with high school students, reaching over 4,000 students in the area each year. Ms. Baumgardner said the emphasis here is teaching what it means to be in a healthy relationship. She said, "Healthy relationships don't hurt you." She said many young people she had worked with had the mindset that "a bad relationship is better than no relationship."

In an effort to reach out to even more people, First Things First has also began offering free online classes on its website, firstthingsfirst.org.


Grandfather Mountain Unveils New Mile High Growth Chart

Grandfather Mountain has unveiled a new attraction at the Linville park: the Mile High Growth Chart. The Growth Chart, located on the third floor of the Top Shop Visitor Center, allows guests to measure their height compared to Mildred the Bear on a platform that’s exactly one mile above the sea in elevation. Guests who visit annually can watch their kids “grow” over the years ... (click for more)

Memorial Service For Korean War Veteran Lelian E. (Lee) Reece On July 20

There will be a memorial service for Lelian E. (Lee) Reece, formerly of Harrison, Tn., at the National Cemetery on Monday, July 20 at 2 p.m. Any veterans are welcome, as are friends and family. (click for more)

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors Establishes Chattanooga Facility To Support Volkswagen

Automotive interior parts manufacturer  Yanfeng Automotive Interiors  will locate a new manufacturing facility in Chattanooga to support Volkswagen. This represents an investment of  $55  million. The company will create 325 jobs by the time it starts production in late 2016. The company will supply interior components, including floor consoles, instrument ... (click for more)

Medical Examiner Changes Opinion In Case In Which Teen Lost Baby After Beating By Boyfriend

Hamilton County Medical Examiner Dr. James Metcalfe testified Tuesday that he had changed his findings in the death of a teen's foetus after she said she was beaten by her boyfriend. Dr. Metcalfe first listed the death of "Promise Jones" as a homicide due to blunt force injury.  He said he later determined that it could have been as the result of another cause - placental ... (click for more)

Why Chattanooga Should Stop Granting Apartment Complex PILOTs - And Response

A new report indicates why Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials do not need to extend PILOTs to apartment complex developers. Demand is high, therefore developers will continue to build to meet the demand without PILOTs. What is truly needed in the Chattanooga metroplex is low-income affordable housing. “Homeownership Drops to Lowest Level in Decades” ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Gun Control? Accuracy!

When President Barack Obama responded to the tragic killing of nine people who were worshiping at their beloved Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., last month, he immediately blamed the gun, saying, “We don't have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hand on ... (click for more)