Campaign for Families First’s new home appeals to community

Campaign for Families First’s new home appeals to community

Portsmouth Herald
Read the full article on Seacoast Online

Janet Laatsch, center, CEO of Greater Seacoast Community Health, visits Families First’s future location in Portsmouth with Geoffrey Clark, MD, and Sen. Martha Fuller-Clark. The Clarks are honorary chairs of a campaign to relocate the community health center.




















PORTSMOUTH – Families First Health and Support Center is close to raising the funds needed to expand access to care in a new home in Portsmouth later this year. The new location will offer the community increased services, including an in-house pharmacy offering prescriptions at discounted rates, more medical and dental exam rooms, and an SOS Recovery Community Center to support people recovering from substance use disorder.

In the final stage of the capital campaign, Paul and Jessica McKeon will match up to $50,000 in community donations. “The Seacoast was one of the hardest-hit areas in the state in terms of COVID,” says Paul McKeon. “It is incumbent upon us to help alleviate suffering in our community – especially now. Jess and I hope the match we are offering will encourage our friends and the public to support this important endeavor.”

Donations will fund the conversion of a building on Greenleaf Woods Drive that formerly housed a gym and swimming pool into what Capital Campaign Committee co-chair Karin Barndollar calls “a new home that is inviting and welcoming for our patients and is an efficient, purpose-built work space for our staff.”

Staff and capitol campaign leaders gather outside the construction site of what will be the new Families First facility on Greenleaf Drive Woods Drive in Portsmouth.


















When the not-for-profit community health center moved into its current space at the Community Campus in 1999, it provided primary care, prenatal care, home visiting and parent and family programs. Since then, Families First has added a dental center, mobile health clinics for people experiencing homelessness, integrated behavioral health services and a medication-assisted recovery program for addiction treatment. All this was squeezed into the original footprint, meaning that space is tight for both services and staff.

The new location will be “a modern medical space that supports integrated and updated essential primary care services,” says Joann Buonomano, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Families First and the entire Greater Seacoast Community Health network. “Families First has a sacred and well-established tradition of compassion, quality care and health equity, which remains at the center of all our current and future operations.”

Stuart Scharff and Jeff Gilbert of WJP Development, LLC, purchased the building on Greenleaf Woods Drive last year and are now retrofitting it to meet Families First’s needs, with financing provided by Newburyport Bank.

A Capital Campaign Committee co-chaired by Barndollar and Lynn Marsh has raised $1.5 million over the past eight months from private donations and is now asking the community to join the effort. Gifts of all sizes are needed to help expand access to care. Sen. Martha Fuller Clark and Dr. Geoffrey Clark are acting as honorary co-chairs. Dr. Cyndi Bear, Barbara Henry, Kathleen MacLeod, Jennifer Madden, Kathy Scheu and Georgette Shapiro also serve on the campaign committee.

“I am deeply grateful to our donors for their incredibly generous support,” Barndollar said. “I have served on the Board of Families First for over ten years, and I am thrilled to see this project come to fruition. Our committee has worked hard to show the community that we outgrew the current space a long time ago. We are confident that a broad range of community members will once again step up to support us with whatever they can afford to give.”

More details about the project, a list of contributors and a donation link are at (“New Home” button). Community members are also invited to contact any member of the campaign committee or Joann Neumann, chief development officer, at or (603) 422-8208 ext. 3144.

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