The COVID-19 pandemic is not preventing Fort Valley State University’s Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) county Extension agents and program assistants from providing services to their clients.
A FACS agent or program specialist provides information and education to clients in a variety of fields. This includes food and nutrition, child safety, financial planning, physical activity and home management.
Using laptops and smartphones, agents are conducting programs while practicing social distancing measures to avoid spreading the Coronavirus disease. Through ZOOM teleconferencing and various Google platforms, agents can educate and inform their clients with up-to-date information about U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.
“The technologies out there are amazing, but human interaction is essential for psychological survival and well-being, and that’s what I value most,” said Ginger Chastine, FVSU Extension agent for Hancock County.
Additionally, Chastine said incorporating telework in providing services to clients enhances Cooperative Extension’s ability to design, develop and deliver educational programs as people adapt to remote communications.
“Employing various methods and technology is an integral part of Extension-client interaction. These systems allow agents to provide educational programs to help people improve their quality of life and achieve self-actualization,” said the Hancock County agent.
Chastine said most of her clients understand the need to hold remote meetings. “After expressing to them that I would remain accessible at ‘their fingertips’ by phone or email, they were gratified,” Chastine said.
Millicent Price, FVSU Extension agent for Crawford County, said she feels comfortable teleworking with her clients. “This is how we have to do our job right now. We have to be creative and make it work,” Price said.
“I use Google Duo and Google Meet the most with my parents, teachers and students. They like those platforms as well. We are also learning how to use ZOOM,” said the FVSU Extension agent.
But with any transition, it takes time to get acclimated, especially when one is used to encountering clients on a face-to-face basis.
“I miss visiting them,” Price said. “Until now, I didn’t realize how important it is to be able to lay your eyes physically on a person. My clients look forward to seeing me because for some of them, especially seniors, I may be the only visitor they have in a week,” said the Crawford County agent.
Earnestine Jordan, a Crawford County resident and teacher at Crawford County Head Start, is one of the clients Price communicates with remotely.
“Mrs. Price and FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program has done an excellent job continuing to support me and my students during this pandemic,” Jordan said.
Even though the school year is complete, Price still furnishes information to her clients about COVID-19 and maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic. She assists teachers and students by conducting classes and discussions about proper nutrition, the importance of hand-washing and practicing safety measures.
“She stays in contact with me through Google Duo, email and texts. I am always receiving good material for myself, students and parents,” Jordan said.
Kena Torbert, family life specialist for FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program, said FACS agents also benefit from the implementation of remote technology. This allows them to create new ways to reach clients.
“This new norm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic allows us to revamp our programs and explore what works well and find where we need to make improvements. The FACS field is known for providing essential knowledge and skills for people to build better lives, strong and resilient families and make meaningful contributions to our communities,” Torbert said,
The FVSU family life specialist said she is confident the FACS staff is ready and able to meet these goals. “With these unprecedented challenges transforming our learning and teaching environments, we will continue to serve and enhance the lives of our clients,” Torbert said.
For more information about FACS programs available through Cooperative Extension, contact Torbert at (478) 825-6873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.