Building a Stronger Family program helps participants be the best version of themselves

Shalonda and Jermaine, Fort Wayne residents, have built a good life together. They’ve raised five children and supported each other through ups and downs. But like anyone, they each had emotional baggage, or trauma, that sometimes kept them from moving forward in a positive direction. Through the Building A Stronger Family Reactive Lifestyle program, both Shalonda and Jermaine have been able to identify and move beyond the effects of that baggage.

“The Reactive Lifestyle program is about becoming the best version of yourself,” says Jermaine. “I didn’t have a lot of trauma growing up, but I realized through this program that I had certain triggers that I learned as a child and then took into my own marriage…this program has made me conscious of how I parent and has made me a better parent and husband. It’s changed the way our family handles stress, and how we talk and pray as a family.”

Shalonda and Jermaine were part of the fifth co-hort of the Reactive Lifestyle 2022 program that took place at New Covenant Worship Center; five more sessions are already scheduled for 2023. Executive Director of Building A Stronger Family, Jonathon Wattley, says he started the non-profit and the Reactive Lifestyle program because, “We are in a pivotal time for our families…this program is like a vaccine for our families. It prevents them from being susceptible to negative influences like abuse, addictions and more.”

Wattley explains that many people live reactive lifestyles, never fully understanding how the trauma and triggers they experienced in their youth affects their life, causing reactions like drug addiction, suicidal ideation, inability to show love for others, and more. The 10-week program allows participants to meet in groups, but also assigns a mentor to each participant so they can have one-on-one private conversations.

Shalonda says her mentor, as well as the group meetings, helped her far beyond what counseling had previously done for her. “I had already dealt with things from my past, like depression, but this program is fuel for me. It’s changed my way of thinking and helped me get to the next level. It’s the fuel to help me grow and not remain stagnant.”

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation is supporting the Building a Stronger Family non-profit for the first time in 2023, committing $20,000 to services that impact the well-being of families in the Villages of Hanna apartment complex.

“As a Catholic foundation sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, we value families and work to support and strengthen them so that all people, especially the poor and vulnerable, can lead good healthy lives,” says Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joe Foundation. “I’m excited to see the impact that Building a Stronger Family will have on our community.”