In 1977, Robert Wilson faced a life-altering tragedy. His wife, Linda, was murdered by their 15-year-old neighbor, who was a foster child. Wanting to understand why this happened, Mr. Wilson discovered that this child had been moved around to 11 different homes and had a history of being abused and neglected. At that point, Mr. Wilson made the commitment to prevent tragedies like his from happening to anyone else and established EPIC (Every Person Influences Children).
“Our mission is helping parents, schools, and communities raise responsible and successful adults,” said Michelle Urbanczyk, Executive Director of EPIC. “EPIC offers free year-round programming, support, and resources for all families. We provide tools for coping, tips for keeping children safe and happy; and establishing a foundation where parents can vent and ask questions without judgment.”
EPIC’s research-based and evidence-informed programming include classes on parenting education, family engagement in education, youth services, and professional development. Topics covered range from basic safety seminars and car seat inspections, to discussions on social media’s impact on parenting, to workshops for pregnant and parenting teenagers.
While EPIC receives government funding to help at-risk parents who are often court-mandated; it does seek and receive funds that directly support various and needed parenting programs for all families throughout the community.
Even though the community’s focus is reactive, the staff at EPIC is determined to change the status quo. Instead of mandating classes after an incident has occurred, Michelle hopes to one day shift the focus to prevention. A large percentage of EPIC’s unrestricted dollars go toward parenting classes for the city’s most vulnerable parents in hopes that problems can be stopped before they occur.
Michelle notes that participants often want to stay even after their classes are complete. “When I talk about EPIC, I say, are you a parent? And are you a perfect parent? Most will say they’re not and most will admit the mistakes they’ve made; and they love sharing that with other parents.”
The open and “judgment-free” discussions give everyone involved the opportunity to learn from those previous mistakes. Brenda Palmer, a Rich’s Associate and EPIC volunteer, notes that for many families, coming to EPIC is the chance to start again. “EPIC gives families the chance to learn and to grow from whatever it was, a mistake or a misunderstanding, and to move forward in their lives to provide a better life for them and their children in the future,” she explained.
Volunteers like Brenda have a variety of ways to get involved with EPIC, including “one-time” volunteering like participating in a focus group or doing office work, to working with the families and regularly facilitating programming.
“I think we all have a part in contributing to child development and providing members of our community with jobs and opportunities for education,” Brenda emphasized. “I’ve volunteered in a lot of different segments, but childcare and child development is where my passion is.”
For associates who are looking to get involved but haven’t quite found their niche, Brenda’s advice is simple. “I would say to really think about what your interests are and what your passions are and experiment a little. See what matches your personality and your values and where you want to make a difference…then take those next steps to become a bigger part of that organization.”
For more information about volunteering at EPIC please visit EPICforchildren.org.