PCHP Grad Speaks at Scranton Rally in Support of Funding

Brenda Ayala was just a toddler when an EOTC worker came to her home and taught her the ABCs and reading skills.

“She gave me a real head start,” said Brenda, now 11 years old and in fifth grade. “For the kids in the future, that can help them, too.”

Brenda and several parents who have participated in EOTC programs shared their experiences Friday afternoon at EOTC headquarters on Seventh Avenue during a rally supporting the restoration of funding to family centers in the proposed state budget.

Jason Farmer / Staff PhotographerBrenda Ayala, 11, of Scranton, tells state Sen. John Blake her experience with EOTC during a rally held by the EOTC Family Center in Scranton on Friday.

The EOTC Family Center would lose about 50 percent of its funding under that budget, which cuts $620,000 from family centers statewide. Those cuts in turn could jeopardize the amount of federal funding the family center could receive because those amounts sometimes require a state match.

“Our goal for today is to really keep this in the forefront,” programmanager Carlene Gula said. “It’s something that is easily pushed back. … We’re a small group, but we do incredible work in the community.”

The EOTC provides training and programs for parents and children, such as parenting classes, in-home visits and a toddler play group.

Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer Selena Rivera, 2, of Scranton, plays with balloons during the EOTC Family Center rally to support restoring funding to family centers in the state budget.

Amanda Camp of Scranton explained how involvement with the EOTC helped lead to her son’s autism diagnosis. She said EOTC workers “go above and beyond their jobs.”

“I want other families to know about this program like I do,” she said. “They’re a lot of help.”

State Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, told the crowd he would take their message back to Harrisburg and fight to restore the cuts. The EOTCis about prevention and early intervention, he said, which helps avoid “the things that cost society more later on,” like teen pregnancy and crime.

“These kinds of programs help families strengthen here and now,” Mr. Blake said. “And they’re the kinds of programs we should support.”

EOTC officials noted they support the need to balance the state budget, but they want family center funding restored.

“It doesn’t have to be balanced on the backs of the people that are most needy,” Executive Director Sharon McCrone said. “That just is unacceptable.”

Contact the writer: cheaney@timesshamrock.com