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Sept. 4, 2014 Volume 36, No. 2

Extension’s Family Impact Center opens

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Medical students Chris Norris and Pooja Patel look through a patient's chart at MedZou, which is in the same building as the Family Impact Center. The close proximity of the two agencies and others helps in referrals. Photo by Kevin Mathein.

Community center in central Columbia offers educational programs

Every year, MU Extension serves more than 1 million Missourians throughout the state’s 114 counties. In 2014, during extension’s 100th anniversary, it is bringing some of its programs home to Columbia. The Family Impact Center, located at 105 E. Ash St., opened this year to serve the central Columbia community.

The brainchild of Jo Britt-Rankin, associate dean of MU’s Human Environmental Sciences Extension, the Family Impact Center provides financial literacy, housing, exercise, health and nutrition information to the community through a variety of programs.

“Mizzou is uniquely positioned to create the Family Impact Center. Our faculty are known for working in an interdisciplinary fashion, and our students are very service-minded,” said Britt-Rankin, referring to the student-led programs Tiger Pantry and Truman’s Closet.

Ashley Guillemette is the center’s director. She moved to Columbia in August 2013 from Lubbock, Texas, where she ran a similar center that offered a clothing closet, soup kitchen, health clinic and after-school programs for at-risk youth.

“There is a trend right now nationwide to have a joint community center or a hub of nonprofits,” Guillemette said. Within the former Williams-Keepers building on Ash Street is the Heart of Missouri United Way, Child Care Aware, MedZou and the Columbia Public Schools English Language Learner program. The 10,000-square-foot Family Impact Center will bring more than 10 other programs into the building.

Guillemette spent the past year meeting with different agencies and stakeholders in the community to figure out how to fill gaps in the services offered. “We have such a huge student presence here, so how can we best use the students’ skills to help fill those gaps [while also giving] students an opportunity to gain some skills,” Guillemette said.

This fall, students from various disciplines on campus — including the Office for Financial Success; the schools of medicine and social work; the departments of personal financial planning, nutrition exercise and physiology, and computer science and IT — will put what they learn in the classroom to the test in the center.

Some programs offered this fall are Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, a 10-week strength-training program for older adults; MU Social Services Clinic, which provides behavioral health care through therapy and support groups; H.O.M.E First Time Home Buyers, which covers the entire home-buying process from finances to maintenance to insurance; and Tigers on Track, an after-school exercise and nutrition program for children who are obese.

The Family Impact Center will also host one-on-one financial counseling sessions, free tax assistance to low-income community members, information regarding the Affordable Care Act, and other programs surrounding health and relationships.

One of Guillemette’s goals for the next year is to engage other schools and colleges such as the College of Business and the College of Education.

“There are a ton of people who have such an amazing knowledge base on so many things the community could benefit from,” Guillemette said. “The mission of extension is to bring the research and the knowledge from the university out to the community. We’re trying to do that here in central Columbia.”

For a full calendar of family programs and courses, visit

 — Kelsey Allen