User Spotlight: Charlene Heeney

Charlene Heeney

This month, we caught up with Charlene Heeney, Connect4health super user with the Early Head Start Program with the Health Federation of Philadelphia.

Connect4health (C4H): What is your role and what does your average day look like?

Charlene Heeney (CH): My official title at HFP-Early Head Start is Community Involvement Specialist, but I often refer to myself as "The face." Why do I call myself that? Well, I am often the first person from the program many clients interact with during the referral process. Before the pandemic hit, I was out in the community 3-4 days a week recruiting families at different community events, health centers, WIC offices, shelters and more. A lot of the recruiting now takes place through virtual settings, such as virtual baby showers, Instagram live and virtual enrollment events. 

I work hard on forming partnerships with community providers throughout the Philadelphia area, sharing resources to benefit our families, and maintaining ongoing resources we house at EHS such as our Personal Care Pantry and Clothing Closet to name a few. I also work directly with families to provide them with assistance in all different areas, ranging anywhere from accessing  food to public assistance benefits.

C4H: What is your favorite part about your role?

CH: Hmmm.. this one is hard because I LOVE what I do. It's hard to pick just one area to focus on. If I have to pick, it will definitely be working with the families and helping them access resources and information they may not have otherwise thought of or known about. It makes a difference. A huge difference. 

C4H: What were your initial impressions of the platform?

CH: Well, like all things new, I was apprehensive! Once I got into the platform, realized how easy it is to navigate and how much information was available, I was blown away! 

C4H: How are you currently using the platform?

CH: Connect 4 Health has become a go-to for me! Once it is brought to my attention that resources are requested, I log onto the Connect 4 health platform. A key word, a zip code and so many resources and organizations pop up! I have referred directly from the site and I have also shared information with the requesting family via email directly from the site.

C4H: How has Connect4Health supported your work? Made it easier? Made it harder?

CH: Connect 4 Health has definitely made my work easier. It's like a one stop shop! I still use my other methods of connecting with resources, but Connect 4 Health has allowed me to not only find resources, but also teach the families how to utilize the site to access resources as well. 

Being on the CHAMP-VISORY group has also helped me connect with other people utilizing the network on a daily basis- we have discussed the positives and negatives and we have been heard. We are taken seriously and our opinion has impacted the website and the way it operates. It's really cool- a social service google! 

C4H: What are the challenges blending social services and technology? The opportunities?

CH: The opportunities are endless when blending social services and technology. Due to the pandemic, the use of technology has become a part of everyday life. People who didn’t utilize technology before, in a sense were forced to take it on, and now have social service support at their fingertips. Meetings, resources, community events, therapists, social workers- it's all within their reach. The challenges are teaching people it's okay to be nervous or apprehensive about something new, but don't discredit it before giving it a chance