The Ashland Family Resource and Youth Services Center (Ashland Independent) has been named the winner of the Harry J. Cowherd Award for Center Excellence by the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC) network.

The award, presented last week at the network’s annual Fall Institute in Lexington, recognizes a center that demonstrates excellence beyond regular center operations. It is named for the late Dr. Harry J. Cowherd, former secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Human Resources and an advocate of the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers concept.

The need addressed by Ashland FRC was homelessness. Ashland had 282 students in 2014-15 who were identified as homeless. Through a grant written by Ashland FRYSC coordinator Geri Willis, three home/school liaisons were hired to help families acquire immunizations, physicals, dental and vision services and make referrals to other community agencies for services. A major component of the grant provides tutoring for 43 students living at the homeless shelter. Of those 43 students, 34 showed an improvement in their academic achievement.

During her 24-year tenure as an FRC coordinator, Willis has secured more than $10 million in grants. The current value of grants secured by Willis is $589,343, and they are used for programming such as:

  • Grandparents as Guardians
  • a monthly “Lunch and Learn” parent program
  • kinder camp
  • a weekend snack program
  • Ashland Alliance Back Pack Program
  • Back to School Fest
  • summer camp
  • Shop with a Cop (back to school and Christmas)
  • First Book (free books)
  • mental health services


Two other centers were recognized for their achievements:

  • First runner-up, Briarwood FRC (Warren County), Janice Lockwood, coordinator.
  • Second runner-up, Dorothy Kingston FRC (Christian County), Barbara Meriwether, coordinator.