Many thanks to everyone who contributes to our center and makes our work possible!
- Miller Foundation Gives to Kids January 17, 2020
For the last several weeks, the trustees with the M.W. and Fair Miller Foundation have been personally delivering generous grants to many local schools and non-profit organizations in Fannin County. One generous gift was for $22,000 to the Fannin County Children’s Center.
“We are thrilled and honored to accept such a generous gift,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Children’s Center. “This gift will help provide many critical support services for kids from hard places. This gift will make sure advocacy, counseling, forensic interviews and many other services are available to help children be safe and begin healing from abuse and neglect.” The grant will also help provide child abuse prevention services for children, youth and adults.
The M.W. and Fair Miller Foundation was incorporated in 1988 and organized for the betterment and care of the children in Fannin County. Currently serving on the Board of Trustees are Tyler Todd, Dr. Dana Sisk and Dr. Jerry Hopson.
The Fannin County Children’s Center is a nonprofit agency that has been serving abused and neglected children for more than 26 years. Programs include CASA, Children’s Advocacy Center and child abuse prevention. The number of children the agency is being asked to serve has grown dramatically in recent years. Barber said this gift will help them keep up with the growing demand. For more information about the Children’s Center, including volunteer opportunities and free training classes, go to www.fanninccc.org.
- Christmas Drive 2019 December 20, 2019
In all, 291 children served by the Fannin County Children’s Center will have gifts of clothes, shoes, coats, toys and other items to open on Christmas morning, thanks to many generous donors.
That was 30 more kids than last year and the most ever served for Christmas by the Children’s Center. “Once again, our generous community rose to the challenge,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Children’s Center. “All of our kids will have an extra special holiday thanks to so many generous supporters.”
Rebel Roots Boutique, WalMart, CapTex, Legend Bank, Tax Assessor Collector Office, Tractor Supply, Blessings and Butterflies, Warrior Tire, Red River Gypsies and Bamboo House put up teddy bear trees to help the center collect presents. “Many of these businesses have been doing this for as long as anyone can remember. A couple places were new this year too,” said Barber. “We are so grateful for their faithful and generous support of our Christmas Drive.”
Presents were given to the children and youth who are being served by the Children’s Center’s two primary programs: CASA and the Children’s Advocacy Center. Some of the children are living in foster homes, away from family and friends. Other children have gone to live with grandparents or other relatives as a result of abuse or neglect. Many of these families struggle financially when one or more children suddenly come to live with them. In other families, the discovery of sexual abuse in the home has meant the loss of family income when the offender leaves.
In January, there will be free classes for adults to learn how to prevent, recognize and respond to child abuse. The center’s staff is also excited to begin offering a new child abuse prevention curriculum for children and youth. In February, a new training class for individuals interested in becoming CASA volunteers will begin. Volunteers are also needed for tasks around the center, including sitting with families who are at the center for therapy and interviews.
- Roxanne Wilson – CASA Advocate of the Quarter December 2, 2019
Roxanne Wilson has been named CASA Volunteer of the Quarter by the Fannin County Children’s Center. She has been a CASA advocate for grand total of 9 years, including 2 years in Montgomery County and 7 years in Fannin County.
After years of being a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) and volunteering on the Rape Crisis Hotline, Wilson developed a passion to help children in need and make a difference in our community. After moving to north Texas, she immediately looked up the local CASA organization because of her previous experience as CASA Advocate in Montgomery County, which is north of Houston. “From the first day I walked into the Fannin County Children’s Center, I knew I had found a place to volunteer and become part of an important team,” said Wilson.
“I continue to be a CASA Advocate to provide stability and be the voice for CASA kids in court,” said Wilson. “I see first-hand the disruption and uncertainty in their lives. I am always available to my kids when they need to share a great story or had a difficult day. It is always rewarding and gratifying to see the transformation in a child and the difference CASA can make in their lives. The encouragement and support of the CASA supervisors and staff help me to grow and be a better CASA.”
Witnessing the progress of each of her CASA kids through their strength and resiliency during an extremely difficult time in their lives is something that keeps Wilson on her cases. Being a CASA advocate is not always easy. Wilson said “I have been challenged to be patient throughout each of my cases that have gone on for years with multiple placements. It is most difficult to see my kid’s lives put on hold while waiting to either be returned to their parent, go to a desirable placement or a forever home.”
Wilson’s supervisor Michele Kelso said “Roxanne was chosen as CASA Advocate of the Quarter because of her dedication to the children she is assigned to. She truly inspires other advocates in our program along with providing exceptional support to the children and their families.”
More volunteers are needed at the Fannin County Children’s Center to be CASA advocates and to help with the Children’s Advocacy Center. The next training class for CASA advocates will start in February 2020. Applications must be completed online and are accepted at any time. Volunteers are also needed immediately to provide supervision to children who are at the center for counseling and forensic interviews.
For more information about volunteering: click here
- Justice Is Served November 11, 2019
By several measures, the 15th Annual “Justice Is Served” fundraiser was the best one ever. Very early estimates are that the event raised at least $67,000 for the Fannin County Children’s Center. This amount tops the previous best of $66,000 from last year. In addition, attendance was the largest ever, with more than 500 people in attendance at the dinner and auction at the Complex in Bonham.
Many guests dressed in 1950’s style clothing to go along with this year’s theme. Congressman John Ratcliffe, State Representative Reggie Smith, 336th District Judge Lauri Blake, Fannin County Judge Randy Moore, Fannin County Criminal District Attorney Richard Glaser, Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson and several other local officials of the justice system served up dinner to the guests. DJ Tony Cruz played rock-n-roll hits from the 1950’s while guests bid on about 200 items in the silent auction. Guests also had fun taking turns at the SMP Party photo booth sponsored by Rebel Roots. Several more photos were also taken in front of the cars from the 50’s that were provided by Kenneth Taylor, Judge Lauri Blake, Robert Layman and Tony Rodriguez. Dairy Queen in Bonham served up coke floats and root beer floats to guests.
Fannin County Game Warden Randolph McGee was the auctioneer for the evening. A custom-built entry way gate from Jason Garner Custom Welding brought in $3,100 and a 5-day getaway to Broken Bow donated by Sunshine Dental raised $2,200.
The highest winning bid of the night and in the fifteen-year history of this event was $5,000 for the Courage Item donated by the Board of Directors of the Children’s Center. Board President Steve Collida introduced the mystery item by describing the courage children have when they report abuse and neglect and encouraging the audience to have courage in bidding on the mystery item that would be worth at least $1,500 – $2,000. Beth Robertson of Cole Title Company and Gaylon Hammett of Hammett Excavation got into a lively bidding war over the Courage Item. Applause erupted from across the room when Robertson was declared the winner. Collida then revealed that what Robertson won: two round trip tickets to anywhere in the continental US that Southwest Airlines goes to, plus two nights of hotel as well as some meals and entertainment.
Before the live auction, Congressman John Ratcliffe took the stage to announce that the Children’s Center Executive Director Sandy Barber was selected as an Angels in Adotion honoree. Each year, each of the 535 members of the US House and Senate get an opportunity to nominate someone who has demonstrated extraordinary efforts to advocate for children in need of a family. This year 124 of those nominees were selected to be honored in Washington DC, including Barber. The 124 honorees will come from all over the country, including only 3 from Texas.
Barber expressed her deep appreciation for the award and looks forward to traveling with her husband to the nation’s Capital later this week. “This work we do is a team effort,” said Barber. “We have an amazing group of women on our staff, a dedicated and hard-working board, devoted volunteers and great professional partners with CPS, law enforcement and other fields. We also have so many generous donors who make our work possible.” Barber also talked about how amazing and encouraging it was to see so many people attend and give to this fundraiser event. Funds raised from the event will help the Children’s Center keep up with the growing demand for their services. Barber said there are still a few children without a CASA volunteer advocate and their Children’s Advocacy Center still has a waiting list for therapy.
- 3 New CASA Advocates! October 21, 2019
Three local people recently completed training and were sworn-in to become volunteer CASA advocates for children in foster care. The Honorable Judge Lauri Blake of the 336th District Court administered the oath to the new volunteers. New child advocates include Laura Luke, Jana Garner and Terisa Hill.
“We excited to welcome these people to our team,” said Sandy Barber with the Fannin County Children’s Center, which includes the local CASA program. “They each bring unique skills, experiences and knowledge to our team.”
In the year ending August 31, 2019, CASA served 110 children, which was slightly less than the previous year, but still significantly more than what had been usual.
All volunteers completed an intensive training class which prepares them to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children who have been removed from their home due to abuse and neglect. The district judge appoints CASA volunteers to serve as the Guardian ad Litem for each child who has been placed in the state’s custody. In that role, CASA advocates investigate the child’s situation, prepare written reports to the court and advocate for the child’s best interest in court hearings and other settings. CASA also advocates and monitors to ensure that all of a child’s educational, medical, mental health and other needs are met.
CASA is one program of several programs for abused and neglected children that are operated by the Fannin County Children’s Center. The next training class is set to start in February 2020.
- Brookshire’s Gives October 11, 2019
Brookshire’s recently donated $500 to the Fannin County Children’s Center to continue their long history of supporting the children of Fannin County. Store representatives Kenny Moore and Austen Bird recently presented the local nonprofit with a $500 check for sponsoring the fifteenth annual “Justice Is Served.”
This event benefits the children of Fannin County by raising funds needed for the Children’s Center to offer forensic interviews, counseling, advocacy, court accompaniment and other support services including their facility dog Render free of charge to victims of child abuse.
“We are grateful for Brookshire’s faithful and generous support for nearly two decades,” said Sandy Barber with the Children’s Center. “By our tally, we have received more than $27,000 in cash donations from Brookshire’s since 2001. That doesn’t include their in-kind gifts such as diapers, baby wipes for our kids and food for special events. We are blessed by their partnership with us.”
- Rebel Runway October 11, 2019
Rebel Roots Boutique sits on the east side of the square in Bonham. In August before school started, Rebel Roots owner Melody Hammett and her staff put together a two-day event at the Multi-Purpose complex in Bonham called the Rebel Runway Event and Fashion Show. It was the second year for this event.
Vendors who sell clothing, jewelry, beauty products and more set up shop in the Complex. Friday night there was a concert featuring Sam Riggs. Zane Dockery was the opening band. On Saturday, activities included a fashion show and SCA steak cookoff. The fashion show featured clothing from the vendors at the event and models were local people. Proceeds from the event were donated to the Fannin Country Children’s Center.
“We started this event to bring some social life to our community while raising money for a local charity,” said Hammett. “I feel Like God put me in this business to help others and this event was away I could reach a lot of people at one time.”
Hammett recently presented the Children’s Center with a check for $7,000. “We are very grateful for this generous gift,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Center. “Melody and her staff worked hard to put on a great event. This gift will help provide counseling, advocacy and other important services for children from hard places to help them heal from abuse.”
- Why I Give! September 18, 2019
We recently asked some of our biggest fans to share why they give of their time and resources to the Children’s Center. Here are their stories!
I support the Fannin County Children’s Center because I believe there is no better cause to pour my resources into, than one that supports the youth in our own community. As a child, I watched my parents serve others and I strive to carry on that legacy. The Children’s Center is working hard to meet the growing demands of Fannin County. I would like to take this opportunity to challenge you to donate! Even $5 can go a long way in helping the Children’s Center meet the needs of the children they serve. When we work together as a community, we can accomplish great things!
Why do I donate and volunteer at Fannin County Children’s Center?
My daughter graduated college and accepted a position as a CPS investigator. Like most parents, we were excited! Little did we understand how challenging this job would be.
I remember having generic conversations with Dana about what she saw in homes she visited. From time to time, she would say “I don’t know if I can do this.” Each time, I responded “Dana, I am not saying this is your responsibility in life, but I do know someone has got to do this job for these kids.”
I never dreamed my daughter would be out on the road in a driving rainstorm trying to get three kids to a foster home in a town which she was not familiar. I never dreamed she would witness the aftermath of a child being severely beaten and hung in a closet. I never dreamed Dana would not see her own son for 48 hours because she had taken custody of a child fighting for her life in a Dallas hospital.
Dana’s earthly life was cut short by pancreatic cancer in 2015. I then realized I had to deal with my words of wisdom to her. “I do know that someone has to do this job for these kids.” It was time for me to stand up and follow my own advice.
For me, donating and volunteering at the Children’s Center is serving neglected and abused children. It is supporting CPS investigators, which is paramount to me. It is serving the staff at the Children’s Center, the judges, CASA’s and everyone involved in ensuring each child has a great chance in life.
In their darkness, we can be their light.
I was recently asked why I donated to the Fannin County Children’s Center. For me, it’s something I’ve not really thought about, I just did it. Knowing children had gifts at Christmas, school supplies for school, and other various necessities was my why. About two years ago, my why somewhat changed, as I became a foster parent and was on the receiving end of the Children’s Center. My first placement was from Fannin County. I was able to get just a peek of how the Children’s Center and the CASA advocates love and support these children! Thanks to amazing people who give to the Children’s Center, my start as new foster parent was made a little easier. To them, I say thank you! Thank you for serving, thank you for loving, and thank you for giving to these children and families.
When we moved to the area 10 years ago, we immediately looked for our local CASA organization because of our long affiliation with other CASAs through Roxanne’s history as a CASA volunteer and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. When we met the Fannin County Children’s Center team, we knew that we had a home for both our volunteer efforts and donations. The Children’s Center provides critical services to the most vulnerable children in Fannin County, and the team does it with a passion that is truly inspirational. Roxanne is still a CASA volunteer at the center, and Bill had the honor of serving on the board for many years. We give with the confidence of knowing that our donation helps to fill a critical need in the budget of one of our counties best and most important charities. We encourage others to learn more and to support this wonderful cause.
- Cyndi Keeler: Volunteer of the Quarter September 9, 2019
Cyndi Keeler has been named Volunteer of the Quarter for the Fannin County Children’s Center. Keeler found out about the Children’s Center through her church. She served on the board for a couple of years but has mostly been volunteering in other ways.
“I volunteer because I believe each one of us has talents or gift that can help someone,” said Keeler. “The Children’s Center reaches out in so many ways into the community. By volunteering I can focus on the needs of the community through an organization that is addressing those community needs.”
For many years, Keeler has helped with the center’s big fundraising event called Justice Is Served. She recently retired from working and owning a HVAC Service Company with her husband. This has freed up more of her time, so she has started volunteering regularly to organize the Rainbow Room. This room contains donations of new clothing, shoes, diapers and more for the children served by the center. Over the summer, Keeler logged in many hours going through the entire room and re-organizing it.
Keeler has been married to her husband David for over 32 years. Together they have had a full life of working, ranching and taking care of a wide variety of animals. When she is not volunteering at the Children’s Center, Keeler enjoys taking on new challenges in life. She likes learning new things like baking breads and knitting. “I also enjoy hanging out with my husband and animals,” said Keeler.
“Cyndi has been a huge help to us,” said Andrea Lappin, the Children’s Center’s Community Development Director. “The Rainbow Room has been transformed over the summer by Cyndi. It is so much easier for everyone to find things that are needed for the kids we serve.”
- Dani Gerhardt: CASA Volunteer of the Quarter July 22, 2019
Dani Gerhardt has been named the CASA Volunteer of the Quarter by the Fannin County Children’s Center. Gerhardt became a CASA advocate for children in foster care a little over two years ago. Ever since her son was born, she has always wanted to try to make the world different for him. She became a nurse because she enjoys caring for others in need. She was looking for a way to volunteer to give back to the community and set a good example for her son when she found CASA.
“I didn’t fully understand until my second case why CASA was so important,” said Gerhardt. “To summarize a very complicated situation, my supervisor and I knew that something needed to change with my case. However, no one else in the court room agreed. We continued to advocate for what we felt was right. After some time and some patience, I feel we were able to change the course of the case for the better. It really showed me that being a CASA is important.”
When going through the initial training, Gerhardt learned about many statistics of children in foster care, including how many children were in care, how long they often stay and how many would age out of care. “Those statistics do have a face,” said Gerhardt “and once I saw that those statistics were a real person, I knew that I wanted to continue. My first case was simple, completed in one year. My second case has been much more difficult, and it really showed me why CASA is so important to the youth in our community. Being a voice for the children’s needs is crucial.”
Julie Luton has been Gerhardt’s supervisor from the start. “It has been a great joy to work with her,” said Luton. “She has been steadfast and positive through many difficult challenges. Children had to be removed several times from different placements. Hard decisions were made and no one agreed at first with Dani in court. Still, Dani stood in court and advocated for the kids on her case. She was never unsure or wavering to keep them safe.”
Several children in foster care in Fannin County do not have a trained volunteer advocate on their case. The next training class for CASA volunteers is scheduled to start on September 10. Being a CASA advocate is just one way to volunteer at the Fannin County Children’s Center. To learn about all the ways to volunteer at the Children’s Center, make plans to attend the next volunteer information session on Tuesday, August 27 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm at 112 W. 5th Street in Bonham.