When Frendida Zamora’s family moved to Lawrence in May of 2007, she was pregnant with her son, and many things for the family were in flux.
“I didn’t have a job or health insurance. It was too expensive to get on my husband’s insurance, and I didn’t qualify for Medicaid or KanCare,” Frendida said. “The first place I came to seek health care was the Health Department, and they connected me to WIC and then to Healthy Families.”
Healthy Families Public Health Nurse Kelli Raney helped Frendida with many things including helping her daughter enroll in a preschool program.
“Kelli was a great, great help, and I just felt like I was connected, being a part of Healthy Families,” Frendida said.
This connection and lived experience encouraged Frendida, who has worked as a Medical Assistant in the Clinic since August 2012, to apply recently for the new position in Healthy Families as a Family Support Specialist, which is made possible due to the recent Family First Grant awarded to Healthy Families and Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County. She has been transitioning to that role in recent weeks.
“Frendida brings so many gifts to her future clients and our team. Most importantly, her ability to instantly engage with someone she has not met before and exude warmth and trust,” said Support Services Supervisor Jenn Preston. “Those are essential, inner-personal traits of any Healthy Families staff working with parents who are currently or previously experiencing toxic stress and/or trauma. That is something you can’t teach and are much more important than formal education or past work experience.”
Frendida, who won the Kay Kent Excellence in Public Health Service Award in 2017, has been focusing on training for the new role, but she has already jumped in to help Healthy Families clients as well, Jenn said, including meeting with a mother to give her a bus pass, obtain a release to connect her with an in-home therapist and scheduling a WIC appointment.
“This greatly reduced mom’s anxiety and stress which ultimately gives that mom more capacity to provide a nurturing relationship with her infant,” Jenn said.
Frendida said she is familiar with supporting Healthy Families clients during her work in the clinic and WIC, but now she is excited to contribute in her new role.
“I wasn’t really able to give as much support as I wanted because appointments are limited or they are here for a specific service,” Frendida said. “And then you find out they are dealing with many other things. I want them to know they can get help here even if they feel so stressed out about certain situations.”