Ana Maria Dudley first came to the Family Resource Center in Cottage Grove in 1993. Since then, she has met countless families, enriching their lives with her warmth, grace, and spirit.
She has helped families navigate complex medical systems, find local resources such as WIC, food banks, housing, as well as shared her knowledge of child development with parents. For these reasons—and so many others—Ana Maria is our 2022 Minalee Saks’ Champion of Children.
“Ana Maria is at the center of so many efforts to protect and support children and families in Lane County,” says Lynne Grilley, Executive Director at Parenting Now. “She is deeply respected and sought out by organizations that work with families, as well as the families themselves. She’s a connector, a supporter, an advocate, and a friend—a champion indeed!”
Ana Maria joined the Parenting Now staff in 2003 as a Parenting Educator for the Crecer Program for newly immigrated Lantinx families primarily in the Cottage Grove area. Her warmth and passion for supporting parents made the program welcoming and safe. Families joined, and the groups flourished. She soon innovated with a shared mealtime with our Make Parenting A Pleasure families, providing a natural and rich opportunity for a cultural exchange, benefiting the larger Cottage Grove community.
However, Ana Maria’s contribution to Parenting Now’s work for families didn’t stop there. When Parenting Now embarked on the Spanish adaptation of Make Parenting A Pleasure in 2004, Ana Maria was key to the success of the project. She then became a Spanish-language trainer for this new curriculum that was offered across Oregon and beyond. When Parenting Now launched the Parent Helpline in collaboration with United Way, Ana Maria responded to all the Spanish-language callers with support and referrals. “Just this year, we again embarked on a Spanish adaptation of our newly updated Make Parenting A Pleasure curriculum,” says Mika Singer, Parenting Now’s Managing Director, “And once again, Ana Maria is our key to this project’s success, ensuring that the translations and adaptations maintain fidelity to the English version.”
Ana Maria currently works in a variety of positions. She is a Community Health Worker for PeaceHealth Cottage Grove Community Medical Center and the Program Coordinator for the Family Resource Center for South Lane School District, called Peggy’s Primary Connection.
“It is a true gift,” Ana Maria says about working with families. “We are supporting their most important job, which is being a parent.”
Families come to Peggy’s Primary Connection (PPC) to connect with other parents, learn about child development, have their questions about lactation and infant feeding answered, and to get help accessing resources and referrals in the community.
PPC founder Peggy Lintula, who passed away in 2019, would say “A supported parent is a supported child.” For Ana Maria, checking in with parents to ask “And how are you doing?” is an important part of the work she does, and she makes sure to give her parents as much time as they need to respond—”In that moment, I am all yours,” she says. She appreciates that the Make Parenting A Pleasure curriculum she teaches to parents “recognizes how important support is for parents.”
Ana Maria works with a diverse population of families—for many of whom English is not their first language. Ana Maria is an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from El Salvador in 1980. She describes the Family Resource Center as a “port-of-entry” for immigrant families seeking resources, referrals, and services, which can include anything from getting on the Oregon Health Plan to finding early learning services for children.
“The warmth and genuine care for the families that Ana Maria works with is palpable when you walk into her classroom,” says Heather Gray, Parenting Now’s Make Parenting A Pleasure Program Manager. “She is a fierce advocate of parents and children. I am truly inspired by and honored to work with Ana Maria.”