EDUCATOR Nancy Johanson Paul teaches her first parenting education class, at Westside Elementary Library, in 2008.
As of Friday, June 30, 2017
Nancy Johanson Paul has retired after 28 years of dedicated support for children and families in the Gorge, according to The Next Door.
Johanson Paul’s passion for promoting healthy children and positive parenting, particularly in the first five years of a child’s life, began while she was a Juvenile Probation Counselor in Stevenson, according to a Next Door press release. After moving to Hood River in 1984, Johanson Paul learned first-hand the challenges of being a parent when her first daughter was born.
In 1989, Carolyn Bondurant, Johanson Paul and other community members decided to start New Parent Services, where parents would have the opportunity to meet other parents and learn about local parenting resources. Through compassionate and devoted volunteers, the program thrived and evolved over the years to incorporate play groups, family social events, and more. Bondurant and Johanson Paul each served as the program manager for New Parent Services at various times over the years.
In 1995, the community obtained funding from Oregon State for Healthy Start, which provided services and resources to families with children birth to five years old. This newly developed program eventually led to home visiting for first-birth families. Johanson Paul and trained staff would visit first-time parents and share information about child development, parent/child activities, and health concerns for young children.
Thanks to these and other community members’ pioneering drive, this program is one of the most thriving at The Next Door, now called Family Services. Highly-trained home visitors see thousands of families a year in the Mid-Columbia region using curriculum-based materials that help create stable, nurturing and loving homes. This program is offered to as many new parents as funding allows, where weekly visits from staff help families deal with all the stressors of being new parents by providing child development information, promoting bonding and attachment, and teaching positive parenting techniques, according to The Next Door.
Since 2008, hundreds of families have attended the Parenting Education classes coordinated by Johanson Paul. She has found it very rewarding to meet and develop relationships with parents who want to learn and grow to be better parents. The best part of her work has been seeing the love parents have for their children and the opportunity to see the strength and happiness it fosters, she said.
Janet Hamada, executive director of The Next Door, said, “Nancy has put her heart and soul into helping parents be the best parents they can be so their children are loved, valued, supported and safe from the get-go. Nancy’s enthusiasm for her work and optimism in all people have been an ongoing inspiration to me and hundreds of others throughout her career. The fact is, Nancy is a rare gem of a person who has quite literally devoted her life to helping others. Thousands of families are healthier, and our community as a whole is better, because of her.”
Parenting education will now be coordinated by The Four Rivers Early Learning Hub (4RLEH), which recently received a grant from Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC) to extend parenting support and education through June of 2020. The Next Door has worked closely with the Early Learning Hub to support them during this transition. Kristen Richelderfer, parent representative on the 4RELH Governance Board, said, “The work around parent education that the Next Door has been doing is vital to helping support parents through their journey. I am so excited that 4RELH will be expanding that grant to support families and children throughout the entire five county region. I know they will do great things!”
For questions regarding the transition of Parenting Education, contact: Christa Rude, The Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-506-2255, or Eli Bello at The Next Door at email@example.com or 541-436-0343.