Starting Points marks 25 years of service to families and children

by Kate Evans

Since 1999, Starting Points of Morgan County has developed programs and worked with local residents and partners to build strong family systems that protect children, boost parenting success and create a stronger community.

This month, Starting Points is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a family resource center offering services, resources, education, information and support to Morgan County families.

The agency is holding an open house event with light refreshments on Wednesday, May 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. at their 106 Sand Mine Road, Suite 6 location inside the Senior Life Services of Morgan County building to mark their anniversary.

Starting Points’ mission is to provide mentoring, education and support to help Morgan County families become self-sufficient. Their emphasis is building and strengthening families so they can nurture themselves and their children.

Mission, focus

Starting Points’ focus is providing services for families, promoting healthy parenting and families and preventing child abuse and neglect, said Executive Director Audrey Morris.  There is a greater potential for abuse or neglect if families are struggling financially or living in isolation.

Morris has been with Starting Points since its inception and has led the growth of the organization as it has adapted to particular needs in Morgan County and put resources to work in creative ways through programming and partnerships.

Once run with a handful of part-time staff, Starting Points staff now includes Executive Director Audrey Morris, Assistant Director and Parent Educator Sharon Abdelaal, Program Coordinators Cynthia Robertson and Tina Badley, Parent Resource Navigator Rose Jackson, Fatherhood Program Coordinator Jeff Rossignol, Community Kitchen Coordinator Pat Long, Assistant Community Kitchen Cook Wanda Starner and Administrative Assistant Kerry Noon.

Program Coordinator Trisha Paul and AmeriCorps Vista Devon Abe staff their new Paw Paw office location that opened in December of 2023. The site is open five days a week.

Morris is excited about the new Paw Paw office.  The community has welcomed them, and Starting Points provides services locally, so people don’t have to drive to Berkeley Springs.  Services include the baby pantry, limited food pantry, parenting education and information and referral.

An array of programs

Morris said four new programs have been developed to meet changing needs in the community. They are: Empower U for middle school girls, Mountain Movers for middle school boys, Father Forge and the Omega 3 program at Widmyer and Pleasant View Elementaries.

Parent Resource Navigator Rose Jackson works with county families in the Child Protective Services system and the courts to find resources they need to complete an improvement plan, Morris said.

Empower U works with around 50 middle school girls combined at Warm Springs Middle School and Paw Paw High School on health, education, career, safety, well-being and other aspects.

Mountain Movers helps to develop middle school boys into responsible young men, she said.

Father Forge focuses strictly on dads and works with men in the court system, dads who are struggling to be good fathers or who want to improve their parenting and problem-solving skills and relationships with their children, Morris said.

Tina Badley goes to Widmyer and Pleasant View Elementaries and talks to kids about the importance of fish, flaxseed and Omega 3s to brain health for that new nutrition program. She also introduces students to Omega 3 treats and foods like muffins with flaxseed, tuna, sardines and other healthy options to get their Omega 3s.

Successful efforts

Starting Points offers a baby pantry for local families needing emergency baby food, formula, and diapers. Community baby showers take place in Berkeley Springs and Paw Paw, Morris said.

Starting Points instituted the Healthy Grandfamilies program to help grandparents and relatives who are raising children.  The program has 28 families registered that meet monthly for fun, education and family resources.

Preschool playgroups offer parents/caregivers and kids the opportunity to meet new friends, socialize and find support.  Playgroup meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. at Starting Points’ Berkeley Springs location and has around 12 families that come, Morris said.  Playgroup in Paw Paw is on Mondays and serves six families.

Mealtime Kitchen

One of the cornerstone programs of Starting Points is the free Mealtime Community Kitchen, which serves around 100 meals a day, three days a week. Meals are free, but donations are accepted.

Mealtime Community Kitchen is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.  The Kitchen has continued doing drive-through meals rather than the sit-down option that existed before COVID. Volunteers are again helping with the kitchen, from food preparation to serving the meals.

Another food-focused program — Cheap Eats — teaches people how to create nutritious meals on a budget.  It takes place in Berkeley Springs and Paw Paw once a month, Morris said.  The program includes recipe alterations to make meals more nutritional and less expensive.

A budgeting and financial literacy program helps adults create healthy financial practices and goals and organize their budget and bill payments, Morris said.

Their Holiday Helpers program provides assistance for toys and clothing to families at Christmas.

A history of growth & service

Morgan County Starting Points was created in 1999 to provide comprehensive services for young children and their families.

Morgan County Starting Points Executive Director Audrey Morris (left) receives a certificate of appreciation of her 20 years of service to the community in 2019 from former Shenandoah Community Health Chief Operating Official Randy Jacobs. Morris was praised for her hard work, dedication and commitment.

Starting Points’ was originally located on South Washington Street in Berkeley Springs.  The agency moved to the Morgan County Community Building at 187 South Green Street in 2014 and then relocated in February 2020 to the Senior Life Services of Morgan County building in the former U.S. Silica site.

In their early years, Starting Points partnered with the community to prevent teen pregnancy and decrease the high teen pregnancy rate. Socialization with playgroups was another focus, Morris said.

Creating community awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the impact of trauma on families later became a goal that Starting Points staff embraced as a community education effort. Now many local service agencies have incorporated a trauma-informed approach to serving people with various needs and challenges.


Starting Points is the fiscal agent for the Morgan County Backpacks Program.  The agency works with Morgan County Schools, community volunteers and donors to deliver packs of food to around 250 k-12 county students every week, Morris said.

Starting Points also partners in the August Back to School Bash to provide schools supplies to hundreds of county students.

Starting Points’ community partners include Morgan County Schools, the Morgan County Extension Office, Shenandoah Community Health, United Way, Morgan County Partnership, the Morgan County Commission, CNB Bank, Epic Head Start and Early Head Start, War Memorial Hospital, Catholic Charities,  the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation, Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center, Senior Life Services of Morgan County, Tom and Virginia Seely Foundation, Aetna,  child abuse prevention agencies and faith communities.

Community impact

As Morris looked back for photos to use in their 25th anniversary slideshow, she found the original article about Starting Points opening in 1999 and what they hoped to accomplish.  Morris said she thought about how many things they’ve done over the years, how they’ve grown as an agency and the impact they’ve made on Morgan County and its citizens.

“The support from the community has always been overwhelming, whether it was supplying volunteers, financial assistance or helping with the needs of families,” Morris said.

Starting Points’ annual Empty Bowls Benefit fundraiser will again be scheduled for September this year.

Donations can be made online at their website or be brought to the office during business hours.

Starting Points can be reached at their offices at 106 Sand Mine Road, Suite 6, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411, by phone at 304-258-5600, and information is on their website at