Coming together for kids in need
The Haddon Fortnightly may not be holding formal meetings throughout the summer, but that hasn’t kept its members from continuing the organization’s philanthropic efforts.
When Fortnightly EMD Education Chair Denise Sellers heard three children separated from their parents crossing the southern border into the United States were being sent to the nearby Center For Family Services, she knew she had to help. And she knew exactly who to ask to get the word out.
Sellers reached out to General Club Chair Pat Underwood, EMD Chair Debbie Mervine and EMD Social Services Chair Nancy Banker to see what the Fortnightly could do. The women contacted members to find out who would like to contribute.
In three days, they had more than $500.
“Everybody wants to contribute to a baby,” Sellers said. “I thought we really need to do this for these older kids.”
Fortnightly member Ginny DeLong, who is a therapist with CFS, put Sellers in contact with the organization’s special projects coordinator Emily Flemming. Flemming explained the boys had the essentials — clothing, toiletries, etc. — but they could use something fun, such as soccer balls.
“The whole vision of them playing outside with soccer balls — the grandmother in me came out,” Sellers said with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Let’s get them soccer balls.’ And I told (Emily) to make sure you tell them these came from mothers and grandmothers who want them to have fun with them.”
Acting on good faith, Sellers immediately went out and spent more than $100 on soccer balls and basketballs from Five Below.
“I knew we would collect that much,” Sellers said, adding that since the collection has now grown, they will be purchasing duffel bags to donate. “Everybody was contacting us right away saying, ‘Yeah, I want in.’ It makes me feel so good because you hear all these horrible things people are saying. Are we really that kind of a country that would punish children for their parents’ perceived wrongs? The response that we got so quickly and so generously from the woman in our club just gives me faith again that most people do care.”
The athletic balls were donated on Tuesday, July 10. Since then, the three boys separated at the border have all been reunited or are in the process of being reunified with family. The donations, however, will aid other children in the CFS Juntos program, which typically provides short-term shelter to unaccompanied children and teenagers crossing the southern border into the United States.
“The program is one of a number of safe, supportive housing programs here,” Jen Hammill, CFS public relations department associate vice president, said. “Since 1977 we have been operating safe and supportive housing for children. It’s a comprehensive network of services for children and teens who need a safe place to live. Family reunification is always our goal.”
CFS has 17 different housing locations from Camden to Cape May to best meet the needs of children and teens temporarily living with the organization. The nonprofit expanded to support children crossing the southern border about a year and a half ago.
“We saw a great need to support these children,” Hammill said.
CFS generally serves 300 to 400 children and teens per year across all of its safe housing programs. The organization is currently seeking shelter homes in the local communities to provide temporary short-term care (30 days or less) for children under age 12, a sibling group or teenage moms. CFS provides all training and support for those looking to open their home.
“Shelter home parents really play a key role in helping to keep sibling groups together,” Hammill said.
Donations such as the one from The Haddon Fortnightly, Hammill said, provide something fun for the children in CFS care.
“Thanks to this donation, children are enjoying the outdoors. They’re getting exercise. It’s an opportunity to reduce stress and provide some fun activities,” Hammill said. “It’s a great example of all that’s positive in our community, when people come together and extend a helping hand to children in need.”
Temporary safe housing is just one facet of the many community initiatives CFS offers. Hammill said there are three ways community members can help CFS: making a donation, hosting a collection or becoming a shelter parent. To learn more, visit www.centerffs.org.