At the request of several community members who serve as advocates for the children and families we serve, the Friends and Advocates Making Investments in Local Youth (FAMILY) Fund was created to help cover expenses that are either not permitted under state and federal programs financed by taxpayer contributions, or for which there are limited funds.
I started out as a Children’s Services caseworker more than 20 years ago and I know personally that a child or family often has needs beyond what this agency can legally provide. I know foster children who age out of the system and then walk to work because they can’t afford a car. I have met foster children who cannot afford a prom dress or the money to apply to the college of their choice. I know families who do not celebrate Christmas because they do not have the money for gifts.
Our caseworkers often dip into their own pockets to help. But many times, the children and families do without.
The FAMILY Fund can change some of that. Concerned members of our community can now make tax-free donations to assist these families and children. JFS has traditionally declined monetary donations because it is a government agency, and has informally accepted other types of donations, such as toys at the holidays or gift cards for foster children who graduate.
A board of community members will oversee the fund, following bylaws that have been established to be compliant with state law.
For years now, we have had an internal fund – created and financed by employees – that helped in limited ways. The Estella McClain Memorial STEP (Staff Team Effort Program) Fund honored a JFS employee who was murdered by a client while sitting at her desk in 1979.
This fund will build on that and expand throughout the community. The following community members will be members of the board that decides how the donations will be spent:
- Ron Lloyd, a former JFS employee who is the ongoing caretaker of the Estella McClain Fund.
- Chris Bochenek, vice president of the Haile Foundation
- Gary Conrad, general manager of Shepherd Chemical Company
- Rob Herman, senior managing director, Gries Financial
- Rae Vuic, Pro Kids volunteer and child advocate
I often talk about how one of our goals is to ensure foster children live a “normal” life, similar to any other child. That is difficult when there is limited money for athletics and other extracurricular activities, field trips, college visits or even tuxedo rentals.
The FAMILY Fund makes all of that possible. For that, I give a huge “thank you” to the members of this community.
To learn more, visit https://www.hcjfs.org/familyfund/.