LEWISTOWN - Manager. It's a word used in conjunction with jobs. If a consumer has a problem at a store, the manager is probably the person to solve it. A construction project is likely under the direction of a manager. Even the high school football team has managers. So why should it be any different at home?
That's not to say everyone should have a person hiding in the hall closet with a clipboard and a pencil tucked behind an ear. While it might sound like a real problem-solver, most people have a more practical solution - they do it themselves.
"We really do manage our homes, whether you think of it that way or not," said Julie Pennington, a mother of two who lives in Burnham.
Pennington participated in the Penn State Extension's Family Resource Program earlier this year. The free program is designed to help parents make the most of their income and their time through budgeting, meal planning, and understanding consumer issues.
"A lot of planning goes into (running a home)," Pennington said. "You can waste a lot of time and money if you don't plan."
Nutrition Education Advisor Helen Sangrey agrees.
"We put this together as a resource to help people," Sangrey said.
The Family Resource Program was initially developed because many community members were having trouble managing their households and, in worst-case scenarios, ended up being evicted from their homes. While the program has expanded well beyond tenant issues, part of the program, lead by Brenda Zimmerman of Mid-Penn Legal Services, does focus on renters' rights and how to be a good tenant, along with other consumer issues.
Much of the program, however, focuses on budgeting and saving money and time. Sangrey leads the program, which is through the Expanded Food Nutrition Education program. Participants learn how to prepare low-cost, healthy meals for their families - and the meals prepared are also served for lunch at each workshop, a hands-on approach Sangrey prefers.
"It's all done in a fun way that can help pull these meals together. A lot of the meals we teach can be prepared in 30 minutes or less," she said.
Guest speakers Michael Ryan, a business analyst with the Small Business Development Center, and Beth Van Horn, family living educator, will present the budgeting portion of the program. Participants will learn how to develop and stick to a budget that will help manage family finances.
"They even talked about... different things with finances and credit, and all sorts of things," Pennington said.
At the end of the program, the group prepares a sit-down meal with a properly set table. As they are seated around the table, the review their experience during the course of the program.
"I hear things like, 'This has been so much more fun than I ever thought it would be,' or 'I've learned so much,'" Sangrey said.
It's not just about the money either. Because finances and managing a household play such an important role in a family's life, relationships can actually improve because of reduced stress and increased time together - especially sitting around a dinner table, even on busier days when it might not have been thought possible previously.
Pennington recommends the program to anyone who can fit it into their schedule.
"The menu planning is something that I really stuck with," she said. "They were great instructors. I would highly encourage people to do it because it's great whether you've been running a household for a long time or if you're a newly married couple."
The next Family Resource Program for Mifflin County residents will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, starting on Oct. 10, in room three at the Penn State Extension office. Juniata County residents can participate in the program on Thursdays, beginning Oct. 11, at Messiah Lutheran Church, in Mifflintown. The seminars are held once a week for four weeks. Participants who complete all four workshops will receive incentive gifts.
"They get a box of food, a cookbook, a certificate of completion, a bucket full of cleaning supplies, gift cards and some other things," Sangrey said.
To register for the program or for more information, call 248-9618 or visit the Penn State Extension office at 152 E. Market St., Suite 100, Lewistown. Registration deadlines are Oct. 3 for Mifflin County Residents and Oct. 4 for Juniata County residents. Participants must meet registration requirements in order to participate.
The Family Resource Program also is supported by Children and Youth Services, Hand of Grace Ministry, Shelter Service, Early Head Start, Head Start and Juniata County Food Pantry.