EPISODE 9 – Kelli Caseman of Think Kids WV

Kelli Caseman, the Executive Director and a founding member of Think Kids stops by the podcast this week.

We talk about what they are doing to keep all kids healthy, happy, and inspired to do great things in the state of West Virginia.

To learn more about Think Kids visit http://thinkkidswv.org/.

Follow Think Kids on social media at:
https://www.facebook.com/ThinkKidsWV
https://www.instagram.com/thinkkidswv/
https://twitter.com/ThinkKidsWV
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfPClvo2Lah6lpegcNPtXPg

Reach out to Kelli for more information on how to get involved by emailing kelli@thinkkidswv.org

EPISODE 3 - Allison Conley - Local Impact Podcast

Podcast Highlights

  • We introduce Kelli Caseman the Executive Director and founding member of Think Kids
  • Kelli talks about this young organization and all it’s doing to keep kids happy, healthy, and inspired in West Virginia.
  • We get into details about the kind of work that Think Kids does, including policy reform and legislative action.
  • How you can help support Think Kids West Virginia

Watch for more amazing podcast episodes by visiting LocalImpactPodcast.com/podcast

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BG Hamrick
Hi, everybody, welcome to the Local Impact Podcast. I’m BG Hamrick along again this week with Whitney Barnhart. And we’re excited today to bring you another episode of the podcast. And today we have Kelli Caseman is our special guest. She is the Executive Director with Think Kids. And as I was looking at information, Kelli on the website, I wanted to read this before we gave you the opportunity to introduce yourself, but I thought this was good Think Kids actually launched in January of 2020. It says the mission is fostering ingenuity, inspiring change, and cultivating generations of healthy, happy kids. Well, I think that’s a very good thing to think about doing. And I think that’s a great mission and a great thought for our generation and future generations. So Kelli, welcome to the podcast. It’s good to have you today.

Kelli Caseman
Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

BG Hamrick
Why don’t you tell us a little bit before we get too deep into Think Kids and what you do there? A little bit about Kelli, maybe you know where you’re from how you got connected to the organization. And just introduce us to you first today.

Kelli Caseman
Sure! So I’m KellI Caseman. I am born and raised West Virginian. I grew up most of my childhood in Tyler County in Middlebourne, West Virginia, and went to WVU graduated there, spent a couple of years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and then came back, lived in Morgantown for a long time again, and then moved to Charleston, in 2004, as the manager of the West Virginia Asthma Coalition, and it’s from there that I started advocating for kids, particularly focused on kids health and well being. And so I did a number of different jobs. Probably most notably, I was the Executive Director of the West Virginia School Based Health Assembly. So we advocated for more comprehensive health services in the school setting. And then I was the Director of Child Health for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. And we advocated for, you know, comprehensive health care for every child in the state. And then it was from there, I started talking with some of my colleagues. And it was at that time, which I still have, I have a fellowship with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And we started talking about this concept of data driven advocacy of really using statistics and the data that we compile regarding the health and well being of West Virginia’s kids, but also talking with people and communities and doing qualitative research studies, to try and foster a more ground up approach, ensuring that kids are safe, happy and have some hope in what they can do with their, with their, you know, as adults, that that doors kind of wide open for them. And so from that we launched in January 2020. And then there was COVID. And so it wasn’t the best time to –

but who knew, right? It wasn’t the best time to start a nonprofit. But we have some projects that we’re really proud of that we’re working on, to try and address some policy issues to ensure that every kid has the opportunity to thrive in their childhood, because if they thrive in their childhood, they’re going to thrive in their adulthood.

BG Hamrick
Well, two things came to mind when you were talking there. First of all impressive resume, obviously, it’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. You obviously have a great passion, and also that you seem to be very analytics driven, which is important. I think that’s great. We get to really see the value of the work that’s being done. And we’re not just not just feeling it and not that that’s bad. We’re feeling it in the community and feeling differences and changes in the community. We’re actually seeing by the numbers, what you know, what needs to happen, what needs to change, what problems and challenges we’re have. So I love that analytics driven mission that you have for sure.

Whitney, welcome back again to the podcast. Let’s talk about programs. Let’s talk about upcoming events and take over here and lead us the way through and you and Kelli share with us what’s happening at Think Kids.

Whitney Barnhart
Yeah, you got it again. I’m happy to be here. Kelli, what is the day in the life of an Executive Director for Think Kids? What do you do in your day to day job?

Kelli Caseman
Um, well it changes from day to day. So we’re really small nonprofit because we, you know, just launched last year and so

I work from home and I work on a variety of different projects. It was very different pre pandemic because like I said, we really like to get out to the community, talk to people face to face.

I feel as if a lot of people who provide direct services for kids often don’t think that their experiences are meaningful or can inform policy change. But that’s exactly what should be informing policy change. And so we’ve been doing a lot more zooming

then we probably are comfortable with certainly a number of the people in the smaller communities are comfortable with. And sometimes you have those internet challenges

where, you know, people drop off. And so it’s been challenging, but we talked to a variety of different people, a number of our projects over the past two years have been very specific to this area. So we have one for example, that’s a six county area, we have one that’s a three county area, we have one that statewide, and then I have the fellowship that I work on, which is a national project. So I may be talking to a variety of different people from different

professions and and different perspectives in a day. So it’s really kind of interesting, how you know, your thought process can go we’ve talking about hunger in the morning, the opioid crisis in the afternoon, and then you’re talking about, you know, Equity and Inclusion with a national panel in the in the evening. So, it’s, it’s, it’s really interesting, you have to really, you know, pay attention and stay it stay focused.

Whitney Barnhart
I bet! That’s a lot of things to juggle a lot of plates to keep spinning. Do you guys have like a whole team? Is it just you or?

Kelli Caseman
So we have a very active board. And our board of directors was really kind of the impetus to get Think Kids started. So I started speaking to them about, you know, starting the nonprofit in 2019. And we have the Candace who is the Executive Director of the American Academy of Pediatrics, we had the then co chair of the West Virginia, Adverse Childhood Experiences Coalition. Barbara is with Unicare, which is one of the managed care organizations in the state. And then we have Brittany, who is a PhD candidate with WVU, who focuses on research. And so they’re really pretty active with Think Kids, I am the only full time employee we have an an intern who is with Fairmont State University, who probably I don’t know if she’s graduated yet, she’s probably graduating, you know, this week or next week. So I need to get connected with her and make sure we send her a gift, right?

Whitney Barnhart
Right.

Kelli Caseman
And then we have, you know, a part time bookkeeper. And we’re working right now, fingers crossed, and I’m bringing on a contract journalist who can help us write some stories, and a part time mph candidate who can help us compile more research. And then, you know, take it from from there and see, you know, the most best strategic way to branch out in the work that we’re trying to do.

Whitney Barnhart
Wow, that’s an impressive amount of people you’ve got backing you, that’s really cool. So you start a nonprofit and 2020. And then three months later, a global pandemic hits. So you started I’m sure with the dream of helping kids in West Virginia one way, and then all of a sudden, with this giant thing that hits us, I’m sure you had to complete do a 180, almost and put almost all of your efforts probably into COVID. Right?

Kelli Caseman
We did put a lot of effort into COVID. It’s important to note the kind of nonprofit we run is, we really focus on policy. And so we don’t provide like community programming. We don’t, for example,

help at the at the pantry, we try and help ensure that the pantry gets what it’s needing to keep running. And so in the moment of COVID, it became rather frightening because so much funding and energy went to just keeping people afloat, right? As it should, because you want to make sure kids have food, and then you suddenly close the schools and you wonder, how are they going to eat without, you know, being at school during the day, because so many of them rely on that, for example. So we really had to

ensure that we could still stay afloat, which thankfully we did. And then we really wanted to focus on what do kids need in this moment. And when you think about the systems that serve them, so the health care system, the public education system, in some circumstances, the child welfare system, and and DHHR and some you know, children who live in poverty, they’ve got an

number of programs that assist them, and you’ve got the foster care system for those kids. And then you’ve got the court system for those kids who are going through, you know, they may have been removed from the home or there may be something going on in the family. And so, you know, you we really wanted to focus on how are these systems interacting, because if everything is shut down, who’s got their eyes on kids who were in those high risk or hard to reach places, so we really wanted to stay focused on ensuring that everybody was talking to each other. And that’s not easy. When we’re kind of a state where there’s a lot of local autonomy, local autonomy can be a wonderful thing. But, you know, nobody foresaw a pandemic. And so when you don’t have that kind of centralized systems all talking to each other, it can be really scary. And, you know, we found out and this is a national trend and the fall from our school enrollment rates that we were down about 9200 kids. And so we know that there are still some kids out there who have not been to school since last March. And so you really kind of wonder about their health and well being. And so that’s something that we’re still trying to focus on. And we’re hoping to focus on more when school starts in the fall to ensure that, you know, all children are accounted for they’re doing well, they have the resources that they need, and that we make sure to go to our state legislature and say, here’s what’s going on, what can you do to help?

BG Hamrick
If I could pop you in really quick here and ask, we come from a family of educators, my wife has been a school teacher, and I helped administrate a small private school for a number of years. And so we understand education, we understand the need for, you know, children, and you mentioned, of course, the pandemic and its effect on school enrollment. Is that sort of the front burner issue that you guys are facing? And is that, you know, what, what is it that our listeners and the community should be aware of when it comes to that that circumstance that we’re that we’re in? Is it a parental educational system, holding them hands to figure out what what we do to make up this time? Can it be made up? Do we have a generation of kids that are just going to suffer from this? What are your all’s thoughts from you know, from your organizational perspective, that might be a good answer for that particular issue?

Kelli Caseman
I think so one of the most important things that we can do for the public education system, is to ensure that we’re not finger pointing and expect them to kind of pick up all of the slack of what may have happened during that year, that school was out. So we know that some kids probably have gone through some traumatic experiences, we know that some kids, you know that isolation was probably difficult for a number of kids, and they may need to speak to a counselor or a psychologist. And then we know that there are some kids who had some needs that weren’t met that need to be immediately addressed. But all of these things can’t be what’s the top priority for public education, they’re there to educate. So I think that the most important thing that we can do is as communities, so as counties, because each County Board of Ed, as you know, has a certain degree of control and leadership. And so it’s really trying to bring all of you know, the community members together to say, What do our kids need, try and do some, you know, asset mapping, and then find where those gaps are, and then ensuring that those needs are being met.

BG Hamrick
That’s a great answer, I think my wife would would agree that it’s got it has to be a community involved, cooperation, for sure. It’s not anyone’s fault. And so it can’t be just any one person, or one entity solution, either. It has to be something we all as a community, even if we don’t have children in the school system, we have to understand that we have a lot of repairing to do, none of us expected it or could have predicted this global pandemic, and it’s had an effect that we need to respond to. So thank you for that. That’s that’s good information.

Kelli Caseman
families have been through so much. And the certain systems have been through a lot and one of the systems that really did not, we had a tendency to say the public ed shut down, but it really didn’t shut down. And it we all became very mindful that public Ed doesn’t just educate. And so try ensuring that instead of doing the easy thing, which is pointing fingers, is to you know, like you said, pick up the oar and get in the boat, because if we’re all rowing, then it’s not so hard for just one system to try and pick up you know, that slack.

BG Hamrick
Yeah, and we need more resources than the school system has, anyway. It’s already at its limit in many occasions. And so to try to make up and continue its current state of

responsibility is overwhelming. And I think it’s, I think I think that’s a good point. And the community has more resources to offer, then I think we’re tapping into. And I think we can all help each other in this in this situation, and that I don’t want our children to get lost in this because we talked about businesses a lot. We talked about how they struggle, and that’s super important. Our economy is still struggling, and we still still have lots of unanswered questions there. But there are some real personal family issues that have to be addressed as well. We’re grateful for organizations like you who have sprung up right at the beginning of it,

to be a help to the community. So thanks. I’ll let Whitney get back to the, to the point she had there.

Whitney Barnhart
Oh, yeah, that was great. That was an awesome discussion about all of that. But beyond COVID. Obviously, you had reasons and goals and policies that you wanted to work to change and work to make better before all of this started. So what are some of the other things besides COVID that you guys like to focus on?

Kelli Caseman
So we have three main grants that we’re working on right now. And I would say first, one of the it was an impetus of why we started Think Kids in the first place, and it’s responding to the needs of kids affected by the drug crisis. So we don’t just mean, you know, the opioid epidemic, because that’s an ever unfolding

crisis that includes some really harsh, you know, intense drugs. And you know, it’s feeding into our overdose problems, incarceration problems. And so we felt as if there wasn’t kind of this collaborative effort to try and address the needs of kids, we have a tendency to not see the ripple effects that our drug crisis has on children. And so we we have a grant, we’re working in a six County area, let me see if I can just name them off the top my head, Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Lincoln, and Putnam. So yes.

get nipped in the bud, they can get the access that they need to thrive as adults. That’s project two. Project three is a health and hunger project. And this is the second year of that project, the Palatine Foundation of Huntington funds this, and we’re holding a summit series that is being held through the end of April, through May. And it’s trying to get a better understanding of how the healthcare system and food resource system are interacting to ensure that those who

need those who show up to the doctor need are food insecure, and they need services, they go there. And then the folks who show up to the pantries who may need health care, have a warm handoff to a doctor’s office. And so it’s really trying to understand what those connections look like. And that has been really, really informative. And I’ve learned so much. And it’s been really gratifying to get to meet some of the people in in Boone, Lincoln and Logan counties and find out, you know, what all they’re doing to address hunger.

BG Hamrick
Fantastic Kelli, I’m going to jump in here again, I’m going to have a question, again, on these projects. These are lofty goals. And these are heavy projects, obviously, that you are undertaking. And if I could ask you, and if it’s putting you on the spot is a little difficult to come up with this. That’s fine, you can parachute out of this question. But we’re going back over those three projects that you’re that you’re looking at what are your greatest needs right now, in those in each project? What are the greatest challenges you have that maybe community member or someone listening or watching our podcast today might be able to find a connection or a networking opportunity for you. Just I’m just trying to connect dots with the community and you and your projects and your goals and your mission to see if we can find any kind of possible meeting of minds that that might help you. That’s the reason for my question.

Kelli Caseman
So, we really need in this moment in the projects, for people to get involved in that we need them to not just complete surveys, but share surveys. So we get as much response from community members as possible. So each of the three projects have or had a survey component. And we also had a zoom component, because we couldn’t do face to face meetings. And as you can imagine, if you’re somebody who isn’t comfortable with a camera on you, if you’re not somebody who is technically savvy, you didn’t participate. And so we’re hoping you know, now as we get vaccinated, and people are starting to be able to, to meet face to face more, that we can have more community meeting. So if somebody, for example, has is interested in one of these projects, and has a conference room in their community, one of the surrounding counties and said, you know, hey, I would love to come talk about this, here in this meeting, you know, we’ll come and we’ll help invite folks and would love to have a community meeting, to really listen to what’s going on in their communities. And then when we try and, you know, articulate what these needs are, it’s coming from a really informed place.

BG Hamrick
Great. And so that’s the same basic need, you’re going to need for all three of those projects where every project, right, so across the board to get gather that information and communicate with the community on what’s happening. Got it! Okay.

Whitney Barnhart
Well, that’s great, because that’s super easy, you know, just fill out the form, fill out the survey, give your opinion, you know, you’re not asking for a lot of time, you’re, you know, you’re just asking for people to share their experience. And so you can get a more well rounded view of what’s going on.

Kelli Caseman
Exactly. And this is important to note it you know, your, your responses anonymous, right. So we’re not going to call you out, we’ve we’ve talked to people who are a little afraid of, you know, repercussions of you know, perhaps Department of Health and Human Resources getting upset with them or the Department of Education, we’re not going to, you know, the point of the project is not to kind of point of finger at these systems, but to help these systems understand where the breakdowns are. And having said that, if somebody comes along, and they say, I want to be a champion on this issue, you know, I would love to talk to legislators; We’ll take that too, right? You know, if you want to come and be an advocate come be an advocate, you know, we really appreciate people who are willing to share their personal stories with legislators because it’s been my experience working at the legislature over the years that, you know, a number of them don’t understand what other people are going through. And when it’s kind of murky when they understand their problem, but they don’t know any solutions. They don’t know what to do. So we need to help them do what they do better by giving them those solutions. So somebody really wanted to come and say, you know, I’ve got an idea on how to address hunger in Boone County, then

You know, we’ll take you in and talk to your legislators.

BG Hamrick
I’d like to drive that home even further. Because I, you know, in the community, I’m working with a lot of business people and I meet lots of people all the time talking about issues and challenges that we have, and all of us have our opinions, we need to do something about that. There’s a problem here that needs to be fixed. And a lot of us are just kind of, you know, maybe armchair quarterbacks when it comes to, you know, some of those issues. But when there’s true passion in your heart about a particular situation, and then there’s a resource like Think Kids, when there’s an organization like yours, that can actually put that passion and, and those ideas to work to make a real, lasting change in our community, then those those opportunities should be taken, we cannot afford to lose those opportunities. If you love kids, and you love some sort of specific project or are passionate about a topic that they’re going after, I would encourage you to reach out to Kelli and her team and let them know that you have resources, time. And even ideas, as she said to, to really move forward in in making a real change and not talk about it anymore. We talk a lot. This podcast is about talking. It’s what it’s what it is. But we want the result of the talking to become action that makes a difference and really changes kids. So I just wanted to drive that home, Kelli, because I know, you hear a lot of people talk about what they don’t like and what needs to be changed. It’s rare to find that person who says I’m willing to give some something to this. And I want that person to know that you’re not alone. You don’t have to figure out how to fight that battle by yourself. There are other people you can hold hands with in our community. And together, we can do some great things.

Kelli Caseman
Absolutely. You know, we talked, joked about this a few months ago that you know, we should just hire an intern who stays on Facebook or Twitter and finds those people who are really mad, and then

we can help you put that passion to good use. Because just throwing it out on the Facebook, it really isn’t going to get any kind of effect. It may have been cathartic. But it’s not going to fix anything.

BG Hamrick
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good point. And we’ll drive that home a lot. As we talk about this podcast, and we share it out after we’re finished today. We’ll make sure that that’s one of the highlights of this podcast as we connect people with you. So that’s cool. Thank you.

Whitney Barnhart
Yes. And if you heard all of that, and you’re listening, and you are now inspired, check the show notes, we will have all of Kelli’s information in there. And we’ll talk about it in more detail at the end of the episode as well. So be on the lookout for how you can get involved. So moving on, I guess. Kelli, can you tell us about some of your events coming up? I know, you mentioned the Health and Hunger Summit that’s got a few more events coming up. But what else? And can you talk about that some more and anything else you have coming up?

Kelli Caseman
Sure so the hHalth and hHnger Summit Series. The first off, if you miss one, you can go on our YouTube channel, and we’ve recorded them all so you can watch them there. And the the point of the series is really to try and bridge those gaps of things that we don’t discuss between the healthcare system and the food resource system. So to kind of describe a little bit about the differences in their systems and why it’s so hard to kind of break down those silos, you know, healthcare is incredibly regulated, right? So which which we want it to be, we want to make sure that the people who see us know what they’re doing and that, you know, hospitals follow a certain protocol, but they have a tendency to be very siloed. I mean, they even have silos within silos, you when you work with them, you hear them talk about how this program, you know, needs to be working with another program, how these specialists need to be working with primary care and, and these sorts of things. So even you know, community health centers, FQHCl look alikes, hospitals, you know, they all have their own way of doing things that is very regimented. We don’t have a lot of healthcare in West Virginia, you know, we’ve there’s not a lot of kind of competition, whether there’s trouble recruiting and retaining providers. And so they have a, you know, their own challenges going on. And then you look at the community resource

a statewide agency that oversees all the pantries in the state, for example. And so when we started the Health and Hunger Project last year, and we just started Googling, and and getting information on all of these pantries around the state, we quickly realized that information gets old very quickly because they are all kinds of these small, autonomous groups that are led by volunteers, and they have different hours that change depending on when the volunteers are free, right?

who to talk to. And so they’re there’s such differences between, you know, the mindset, and the philosophy. And you can imagine, by the way, a number of these pantries are run by churches, or volunteers who are over 65. And so when we had this increased demand due to COVID, you had a number of them who were no longer volunteering, because they couldn’t, you know, it wasn’t safe for them. And so, you know, we’re having these dialogues about how what can these connections look like between healthcare and food pantries to ensure that, you know, food isn’t just accessible, but nutritious food, because in these three counties, especially you see higher increased numbers of people with high blood pressure and diabetes and obesity, and often the kind of food that you find in a food pantry, or if it’s food that’s specifically made for a longer shelf life, that isn’t always very healthy for you. So we’re talking about that as well. And and what we’re finding is a number of people who perhaps didn’t think that they had a lot of suggestions for policy issues, but once you start talking to them, they do they have quite a bit, they just didn’t realize it was kind of a policy issue. So we’ll be talking soon with, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Hungry Lambs Food Initiative.

But it is a large food pantry in Logan County. And they partner with the Fresh Start Program, which works with people in recovery. And they’re volunteering at the Hungry Lambs Food Initiative. And they’re

gardening and doing a number of really great programming there. And they also partner with Logan Pride, and they partner with Coalfield Health Center. And what you find is that created like this whole ecology, and dynamic of how they’re all working together to meet the needs of their community, which I never would have known that there was a group doing this until we started digging, but I’m so excited to hear how they’re making all of this work. And if it’s something that can be replicated in other places in the state. And so we’ll be talking about that. And then our final session, we’ll be bringing back some folks and talking, we’ll be talking with

folks from the Salvation Army and some other groups that work around the state to find out what they think could be the smartest first step in building better bridges between these systems.

BG Hamrick
Really cool, and I think if you have connections with those folks, and they want to get the word out, obviously, please share the Local Impact Podcast with them, because we’re looking for that exact sort of situation where people are finding what you call an ecology, kind of a way of doing things that works together. And they’re learning how to blend their missions and goals, so that they can all be successful. Those are perfect guests, for us to be able to share what’s what’s going on. So keep us in mind as you as you network through your systems, if there’s anything you think we should get the word out on, just keep this in mind and put a checkmark beside that.

Kelli Caseman
Sure, well, you know, what, what I find is funny, and I grew up in a very small town, but you know, the, the director of Hungry Lambs, and the person who wrote the grant for the Fresh Start Program are married. And so you find this kind of, you know, when you’ve got passion and a family, kind of like you two when you got passion in a family, it kind of exudes over and then everybody you know, you just start getting involved. And it’s like, you know, somebody says, Well, you know, pick up, pick up an oar and start rowing with us. And then you find that a number of families, or neighbors, or you know, they all just start working together. And it’s really so exciting to find that. So I’ll definitely as all of this unfold, share some names with you.

BG Hamrick
And that’s exactly how we’re supposed to operate. It’s how things are supposed to go we’re we are a community and we’re supposed to work together. And so oftentimes, I see nonprofit organizations working side by side,

you know, in a city doing the same work, but never, never connecting, never communicating. And they’re their goals are the same but and they could do so much more together. But there’s a there’s a separatist mindset, sometimes this is what we’re doing. This is what our constituents expect us to do. And this is what they supported, but we have so much more power together than we do individually.

Kelli Caseman
We do. And I think that it’s a weird

competition to people create, or you start working with those nonprofits and and they’ll say, well, we had a breakdown

Communication because and then you start hearing of, you know, like five years ago, somebody didn’t like somebody and it’s like, why don’t you get back together talk about this, because you have so much more power. I mean, I understand if perhaps you’re fighting over this small pot of money. But imagine if you work together, you know, they’ll help more people, the more money that you could bring in perhaps on a state and national level.

BG Hamrick
Buy a coke and teach the world to sing, right?

Whitney Barnhart
Thanks for that.

So how can people stay in touch with you, Kelly with Think Kids and everything that’s coming up and what you guys are working with what’s the best place for them to find information about what you guys are doing?

Kelli Caseman
So if they want to take a deep dive, go to our website, and that’s where you can read the issue briefs and reports. And you can find out more about events. And you can find out more information and some data around why we started a project and and kind of where we are in progress. If you want daily information, I would suggest going to our website, our I’m sorry, our Facebook page. And we have said that pretty pretty frequently, and we put news up there as well that’s relevant. For example, you may have heard that the COVID vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15, should be coming out soon. And you know, the governor is saying that there he wants a really robust response from schools to get those kids inoculated. So we share information like that on the Facebook page. And then on Twitter, we’re pretty active there, too, if you’re specifically interested in

policy, you know, we were pretty active trying to keep up to date with what was going on with the legislature, which was hard this year, because things move really fast.

Because they’re afraid of you know, they would have to shut down everything due to COVID. And then we keep an eye on

interims, during the year legislative interim sessions, and we keep an eye on things like you know, the State Board of Education meetings, I think that we’ll see, the legislature had

passed a number of policy, or a number of bills that will be enacted over the summer, that’s going to change some of the way that public education

functions. And you know, we may see more charter schools, we may see more, what’s called the HOPE Scholarship, I won’t go into that now. But if you follow us on Twitter, well, we normally will retweet or share information that will help kind of illuminate what these policy issues mean for West Virginians. So I don’t think that we had intended on doing so much online when we started, we hope to do more in communities. But you know, COVID is what COVID is, so we got to do a little bit better at it. And that’s the best way to keep in touch with us.

Whitney Barnhart
Awesome. You also have a newsletter. Correct? Did I see that on your website?

Kelli Caseman
Yes, thanks for reminding me that twice, twice a month. And we love trying to get things in more in depth in the newsletter. And we definitely try and share what we call fresh data. Meaning, you know, things around kids, let me give you a good example, the zero to three national nonprofit shared their annual yearbook and a new data set that they put in there was babies removed from the home due to child maltreatment. And West Virginia is number one for for that. And so that’s the kind of information that we think is important for the general public to knows they can get a better idea of, you know, the challenges that our children face. So yes, please, thank you, Whitney, sign up for a newsletter, you can do that on our website.

Whitney Barnhart
Okay, well make sure to link your website and your YouTube and your Twitter and your Facebook and all that good stuff. So people have easy access to it. And then if people wanted to, let’s say they wanted to be a champion for an issue, or they wanted to get connected with you guys and see how they can just do more in their area, what would be a good way to connect with you through email through Facebook contact form?

Kelli Caseman
Well, we’ll take any and all but probably email would be the quickest turnaround. And so I’m sure you’ll share my email address, but it’s it’s just Kelli@ThinkKidsWV.org.

BG Hamrick
Fantastic. Kelli Caseman, Executive Director for Think Kids. It has been a real pleasure to have you today. You’re a wealth of good information. And I hope you’ll consider Local Impact a friend of the organization because we believe the same as you do that a better West Virginia begins with its kids, as you say on the website. So that’s what we want and will you come back and be with us again so we can dive deeper into some of these topics and go – I think it’s a good introduction today of you and your organization, but I think there’s going to be some opportunities for us coming up that we can dive deeper into some of these topics and projects of yours.

Kelli Caseman
Sure. That would be great!

BG Hamrick
Awesome. Well, just want to remind everybody to watch for the show notes for any information you might have. Thank you for being a part of the show today. Whitney, great questions, great conversation. Thank you. Always a pleasure. And we’ll see you next time on the Local Impact Podcast.