Jasper Area Family Services Center

Kilgore reflects on a 30-year-career in social services

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Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the 2019 Women of Walker County special section.

Donna Kilgore has dedicated her 30-year career to serving others.

Kilgore currently serves as executive director of the Jasper Area Family Services Center, which provides a number of programs that are housed at the old West Jasper Elementary School.

After receiving a degree in psychology from Samford University, the Alabama native started working with a program in Georgia that served teens in a group home setting. She was called back home and worked 13 years with Northwest Alabama Mental Health, specializing in outpatient services and counseling for those with substance abuse issues.

“I don’t know that I expected to really go into that particular area. For many years, even as a teenager, I was interested in counseling and working with folks,” Kilgore said in early October at the family services center. “That’s been a big part of my entire working career is working with folks, either on the prevention side of alcohol or drugs or the intervention side. It became a passion I didn’t even realize. It’s very dear to my heart. Probably one of my favorite things to do is to work with people.”

She added, “I think we all have something to recover from and to deal with. At times in my life, I’ve struggled with depression, and that’s probably the first thing that got me interested in the area of social services and counseling. Once I got to work with people who were struggling with alcohol or drug issues, I think that passion just developed, and I was able to connect with people and work with them.”

When Kilgore later became director of the Walker County Children’s Policy Council in 2001, conversations started about having a family services center and it became a reality when the Jasper Area Family Services Center was established in March 2002.

Kilgore became executive director of the center in 2008.

The center currently provides more than 10 core programs, including Baby TALK, Cooperative Parenting, Cooperative Generations, The Alabama Court Referral Education Program, Defensive Driving, The Fatherhood Initiative, the Motherhood Initiative, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, The Parent Project, Parent Project Junior and Parent Project Senior/Teen.

The Walker County Children’s Policy Council, Literacy Council of Walker County, and other programs are also housed at the center.

The family services center is involved in a number of partnerships and has a warming station that is open when temperatures fall below 32 degrees for two or more consecutive nights.

The center primarily provides prevention programs and is currently looking for volunteers to help with some of their services. Kilgore said donations of meals can also be helpful on evenings where families are served. Ahead of winter, the center is also accepting donations of snacks and toiletry items for community members who will utilize the warming station.

When Kilgore isn’t at the center, she enjoys hiking, reading and singing in her church choir. She also has two children and two grandchildren.
Kilgore admits social services is a tough profession, but also very rewarding when families leave the center better equipped to handle everyday struggles.

“You have success stories on a daily basis, but it’s a big picture kind of work, I think,” she said. “You meet people in tough places, no matter what type of social services work you’re doing. You have to have compassion, empathy and sympathy for people. You’re going to meet people that you haven’t had that exact experience. Sometimes, you have had the experience. I think listening is very important in the social services world and just meeting them where they are.”

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Anyone seeking help from the family services center may call 205-302-0801.