Many thanks to everyone who contributes to our center and makes our work possible!
- Sandy Barber’s Retirement Party June 29, 2023
After more than 22 years as the Executive Director of the Fannin County Children’s Center, Sandy Barber is retiring. Including her prior experience at North Texas Youth Connection, Barber has worked in the nonprofit and child welfare field for more than 31 years.
The Board of Directors and staff of the Children’s Center will be hosting a Retirement Party for Barber on Wednesday, July 5. All are welcome to join the celebration from 4:30 – 6:00 pm at the Roy Floyd Community Center at 1100 W. 5th in Bonham.
Barber’s family moved to Arlington, Texas when she was in sixth grade and she graduated from Martin High School. Six weeks after graduating from Austin College in Sherman, Texas she married her college sweetheart, Bill Barber. Together, they have three daughters, Jessica, Katie and Cassidy.
Barber said, “There have been LOTS of changes in the 22+ years I have been here at the Children’s Center. Growth is definitely tops on that list. When I started, we had 4 staff and an annual operating budget of about $145,000. We now have 9 staff and a budget of more than $900,000. We were located in an office space in which the rent was donated when I started. In 2003 we purchased, renovated and moved into our current facility. We currently have about 8 acres of land donated and we are working to raise the funds needed to build a new, larger facility.”
When Barber started, the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) was only about 18 months old in Fannin County and was considered a “developing center.” Over her time at the center, mental health services were added to the CAC. Other new services added during her tenure included the Rainbow Rooms (emergency clothing & resource closet) and child abuse prevention classes. The CASA and CAC programs expanded and evolved over the years to keep up with the growing population in our community as well as the changing state and federal standards for CASA and CAC. The annual Christmas and School Supply Drives also grew under her leadership thanks to generous donors.
“There have been many changes in technology too,” said Barber. “When I started, we had dial up internet, we did not have an agency website and social media was not even a thing. Grants were submitted by mail and monthly grant billing was submitted by fax.”
“There have been LOTS of challenges along the way too,” said Barber. “Some of those challenges have included the times we lost grants or had turnover with staff or partners. The increasing state and federal standards from both CASA and CAC have been challenging too. Juggling both CASA and CAC has also been part of the challenge at times. No matter what the challenges have been, I would say I mostly worked to meet them by collaborating with our staff, board, volunteers, partners, donors and other supporters. The nature of this work and our mission relies on a variety of folks coming together, giving and doing what they can, to make good things happen for kids from hard places.”
Barber said, “What I liked most about this job was definitely the difference we have made for hundreds of kids and families over the years. I have been blessed to be able to play a small part in getting abuse to stop, healing to begin and in some cases, justice to be granted. A close second would be the opportunity I had to help others in our community see how they too can make a difference for kids from hard places. Whether I was inviting folks to donate, recruiting volunteers or board members, hiring and training staff or teaching folks how to recognize and respond to suspected child abuse, it was energizing to me to figure out how I can connect others to be a part of our important mission. On the other hand, the thing I liked least was firing people. No matter how deserved it was, I have never liked doing it.”
When asked what she would miss most, Barber said, “The people. I will miss seeing kids skip down the hallway to go to their counseling sessions and the parties we had when kids got to go home or get adopted. I will miss working closely with the dedicated staff, volunteers, partners, donors and board members too.”
Barber has been honored with many awards over the years. In 2019, she won the Athena Leadership Award, which honors women in leadership and the Angels in Adoption Award, which included a trip to Washington DC. Texoma Council of Governments named her the Regional Citizen of the Year in 2015 and the Bonham Chamber named her the Citizen of the Year in 2021.
In 2011, she won the Texas CASA Go Give Award. “This was extra special to me because it recognized me for being a support and inspiration to my fellow CASA Executive Directors from across the state,” said Barber. Bonham ISD has also named her a “Friend of Education” three different times over the years, including this year.
Barber served terms on the boards of Texas CASA, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas as well as many local organizations. She was recently recognized for serving twenty years on the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee at the Texoma Council of Governments.
“It has truly been my honor and blessing to do this work for more than two decades,” said Barber. “Now it is time for me to hand the baton on to the next leader. I am really excited that Kim Skidmore has come back to the center to become our next leader. I am confident the center will be in good hands with her.”
- 30th Anniversary Celebration May 2, 2023
Around one hundred and fifty people were in attendance at the Complex in Bonham for a 30th Anniversary celebration and to honor the volunteers and partners of the Fannin County Children’s Center. Attendees included CASA advocates, investigators, prosecutors, therapists, forensic interviewers, caseworkers, attorneys, district judge, donors, board members and other volunteers and professionals involved in the child welfare and criminal justice systems in Fannin County.
Kelly LeBrun was named as the CASA Advocate of the Year. LeBrun has been a CASA advocate since 2017. CASA Program Director Julie Luton described she has experienced many joys, disappointments, successes and struggles along the way as she has advocated for 10 cases of children in foster care. LeBrun often worked two cases at a time and drove more than 9,000 miles in her volunteer work over the years.
Cody Shook with the Savoy Police Department was selected as the Multidisciplinary Team Member of the Year for the Children’s Advocacy Center. Members of the multidisciplinary team, which includes professionals from CPS, law enforcement, prosecution, medical and mental health, nominated and voted on the team member of the year. Assistant District Attorney Jessica Arnold and CPS investigator Shaterra Gunn were recognized for being finalists for the team member of the year award too. CPS Investigator Cody Trauer’s service dog Mathew received the “Goodest Boy Award” for bringing joy everywhere he goes.
Keira Prior was named the Children’s Center Volunteer of the Year. Volunteer Coordinator Kesly Chacon described how Prior volunteers with the annual School Supply and Christmas Drives and other ways around the office. Her cheerful smile and willingness to help get tasks completed in the Rainbow Rooms and around the center are greatly appreciated.
Executive Director Sandy Barber recognized current and previous board members and staff members of the Children’s Center as well as presented four Community Partner Awards. These awards were given to Fannin Bank, TXB/McCraw Oil, Glaser Family Charitable Foundation and 336th District Judge Blake. Each of these award winners have been dedicated partners with the Children’s Center in the pursuit of their mission of promoting safety and improving the lives of abused and neglected children and have helped the center reach its 30 year milestone.
Jenna Quinn was the guest speaker for the evening. She is a survivor of child sexual abuse who benefitted from a Children’s Advocacy Center in Texas. She shared some of her personal story and thanked all who were in attendance for the role they play in helping victims of abuse to recover. Quinn is also the namesake for “Jenna’s laws” which were first passed in 2009 in Texas to require child sexual abuse prevention education for students, teachers and caregivers.
The award-winning Bonham High School Choir, which recently returned from a trip to Nashville, entertained guests with a variety of songs at the beginning of the celebration. Paris Health Care Express provided a photo booth for guests. The catered dinner was served by the board members of the Children’s Center.
- 2023 Art Contest Winners February 22, 2023
Fifteen-year-old Miranda Verde of Trenton took home the top prize in the Open Your Heart Art Contest sponsored by the Fannin County Children’s Center. She won $100 and a blue ribbon for her artwork that will now be featured on the front of the Open Your Heart campaign cards. Fourteen-year-old Ryan Compton of Dodd City won a second place ribbon and $50. Her artwork will be featured on the inside of the cards.
The winning artwork will be featured in the upcoming fundraising campaign for the Children’s Center. Funds raised will provide a wide array of support service to children, youth and families recovering from abuse and neglect, including CASA, the Children’s Advocacy Center, Rainbow Room and child abuse prevention and education efforts. As a non-profit, the center relies on grants and donations to be able to offer their services for no cost to victims of child abuse and neglect.
CASA recruits, screens, trains and supervises volunteer advocates for children in foster care. Children’s Advocacy Center facilitates a multidisciplinary team of public and private agencies involved in the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse. The Rainbow Room provides new clothes, shoes, diapers, coats and other items to children served by CASA, Children’s Advocacy Center and Child Protective Services. Trained staff also are available to train children, youth and adults in child abuse prevention education. To make a donation, learn about volunteer opportunities, schedule a prevention class or read more about the center, go to www.fanninccc.org.
- Christmas at the Center December 19, 2022
For the third year in a row, the Children’s Center created a pop-up store to serve the children served by CASA and the Children’s Advocacy Center. Some CASA children were still served the traditional way. The pop-up store gave parents, caregivers or advocates an opportunity to select presents for their children. Each child got one or more books and either a coat, hoodie or pair of shoes. Each family got one family board game, wrapping paper and gift bags. Caregivers were also able to select toys and other gifts using a point system which gave each child 5-10 gifts.
“Over the years, our traditional way of doing Christmas had grown to be more than our staff could reasonably manage. We learned of this pop-up store idea from other Children’s Advocacy Centers,” said Sandy Barber of the Children’s Center. “This way of getting gifts to kids turned out to be much more empowering for our families and allowed for more volunteer involvement.”
“Over and over again, we heard parents and other caregivers express their gratitude for this help for Christmas,” said Barber. “There were even some happy tears and lots of hugs of appreciation too.” One mother and grandmother were very excited to find cowboy boots in the exact size needed for their child.
“The generosity of our community was overwhelming and heartwarming once again. So many individuals, businesses, churches and other groups gave what they could. It all added up to make sure ALL the children served by CASA and the Children’s Advocacy Center have something special for Christmas,” said Barber. “This effort would also not be possible without our volunteers, board members and staff who worked hard to set up the store, run it and then take it all down.”
Eighteen local businesses set up teddy bear trees to help collect gifts for the children, including Blessings & Butterflies, Bonham Chrysler, Bonham Veterinary Clinic, Brookshire’s Grocery, CapTex Bank, Fannin Bank, Farm N Home Casualty (Pierson and Fendley Insurance), First United Bank, Gayle’s Restaurant, Honey Grove Library & Learning Center, Legend Bank, Red River Gypsies, Scriptx Honey Grove Pharmacy, Stay Grounded Coffee Company, Tax-Assessor Collector’s Office (Tag Office), Texas Farm Bureau Insurance, Veritex Bank and WalMart.
“Many of these businesses have been doing this for many years. A few were new this year,” said Barber. “We are very grateful for their support and generosity!”
Gifting The Cycle is a nonprofit that gives bicycles to children in the North Texas area. They gave 40 bicycles and helmets to the Children’s Center for Christmas presents. The United Methodist Women of Leonard and the Elvis Lives Texas Style group were two of many groups to donate lots or presents again this year.
When the Rock Yard in Trenton held their second annual Thanksgiving community meal in November, they set out a donation jar. The meal was offered for free and no donations were expected. They collected a grand total of $3000 in cash donations for Christmas presents for the Children’s Center.
- McCraw Oil and TXB Give to the Children’s Center November 21, 2022
The Fannin County Children’s Center was thrilled to accept a donation of $22,000 from TXB (formerly Kwik Chek) and McCraw Oil and Propane recently. This check was one of several being delivered around the state by Sherry Capehart, on behalf of the two companies.
This gift was part of the proceeds from the 26th annual Doyce Taylor Memorial McCraw Oil & Propane/TXB Golf Tournament and 5th Annual Fishing Tournament held in May 2022. Over the past 14 years, this TXB and McCraw Oil have raised $787,000 for CASA programs across the state.
“What an honor it was for myself and a few team members to present the check at Justice Is Served, Dancing Through The Decades,” said Sherry Capehart. “We strongly believe in giving back to the communities that we service, especially when children are involved. We look forward to the support we can provide in the future, through our Round UP For Change Campaign, starting again next month at our TXB sites and our annual fishing and golf tournaments.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to accept this very generous donation!” said Sandy Barber of the Children’s Center. “The folks at McCraw Oil and TXB are wonderful. Not only do they host this tournament each year, they also serve on our board, volunteer at our center and always answer our calls for help. We are grateful for their partnership. They truly do live up to their motto of “leave ‘em better.”
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, recruits and trains volunteers to become advocates for children in foster care. When a judge determines that a child is no longer safe in their own home, CASA is assigned to gather information and make recommendations to the courts about what would be best for the child.
The gift to the Children’s Center will support children in foster care by providing trained volunteer advocates. To learn more about the Children’s Center, go to www.FanninCCC.org.
- Justice Is Served for Kids November 16, 2022
More than 400 people attended the 18th annual “Justice Is Served” event at the Complex in Bonham. Very early estimates are that the event raised at least $65,000 for the Fannin County Children’s Center.
The event theme was “Dancing Through the Decades, Celebrating Three Decades of Serving Children.” Guests dressed in attire from previous decades and included tie dye shirts, poodle skirts, disco outfits, flapper dresses and neon outfits from the 80’s. Guests bid on items in a large silent auction while a DJ played dancing hits from previous decades. Guests also had fun taking turns at the SMP Party photo booth sponsored by Fannin Bank. Several local officials in the justice field served up the buffet style dinner.
Five of the honorable servers were recognized for having been servers at 15 or more of the events over the years. They included 336th District Judge Lauri Blake, Fannin County Criminal District Attorney Richard Glaser, Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson, Justice of the Peace Kenneth Karl and District Clerk Nancy Young.
Ten sponsors who have generously supported the event for 15 or more years were also recognized at the event. They included DuAnne Bragg, Ray and Gloria Campbell, Clayton Homes, Cole Title Company, Fannin Bank, First United Bank (formerly American Bank of Texas), Glaser Family Charitable Foundation, Bobby and Karen McCraw, TXB and McCraw Oil and Propane and Voluntary Purchasing Group (VPG).
The highest winning bid of the night was $3,000 for a Getaway trip to Broken Bow donated by Sunshine Dental. Turtle brownies made by 336th District Judge Lauri Blake set a new record, selling for $2,200.
First United Bank was the presenting Diamond Sponsor of the event. Platinum sponsors included TXB, McCraw Oil and Propane, B&B Service Center/Driver’s Choice, Renlita Custom Opening Solutions, Bonham Chrysler, Pampered Paws in memory of Gaston Bordelon, and Kevin and Hailey Mayberry.
Funds raised from the event will provide counseling, advocacy, forensic interviews and more to help children from hard places heal, grow and thrive. To learn more about the Children’s Center, including volunteer opportunities, go to www.fanninccc.org.
- Justice Is Served November 7, 2022
Time is running out to get tickets or tables for Justice Is Served. The event will benefit the Fannin County Children’s Center and provide critical support services to children, youth and families recovering from abuse and neglect.
First United Bank is the presenting Diamond Sponsor of the event. Platinum sponsors include B&B Service Center and Driver’s Choice, Bonham Chrysler, Kevin and Hailey Mayberry, Pampered Paws Dog Hotel, Renlita Custom Opening Solutions, TXB and McCraw Oil and Propane.
The in-person event will be at the MultiPurpose Complex in Bonham on Saturday, Nov. 12, starting at 6 pm. Tickets and tables are on sale now at the Children’s Center and on their website. Ticket prices include dinner, drinks, desserts and an evening of fun. Bidding in the live and silent auction will be in-person only.
Dinner will be served up buffet style by local judges, police chiefs, sheriff, DA and others in the justice system. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the event theme which is “Dancing Through the Decades, Celebrating Three Decades of Serving Children.” Guests may choose to wear flapper dresses from the 20’s, poodle skirts from the 50’s, tye dye from the 60’s, disco outfits from the 70’s or fashion from more recent decades.
The Baked Goods Auction will be on-line only and anyone with access to the internet can participate without purchasing a ticket. The Baked Goods Auction will be on Wednesday, Nov. 9. Bidding will open at 9:00 am and end at 5:15 pm. Winners can pick up their items at the Children’s Center the same day until 7 pm or on Thursday or Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.
The Silent Auction items will be up for bid at the event on Saturday and will include jewelry, home furnishings, hand crafted items, gift cards and gift baskets. The Live Auction includes tickets to the Texas v Baylor football game donated by Leonard Pharmacy, a Getaway to Broken Bow donated by Sunshine Dental, a Frisco RoughRiders VIP package donated by TXB and McCraw Oil, a Lone Star Bench donated by Calvary United Pentecostal Church in Bonham, Judge Lauri Blake’s Turtle Brownies and a Tailgate Table made by the Bonham High School Ag Department.
- New CASA Advocates October 3, 2022
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 Cathy Naylor, Star Breece and Taryn Nejtek.
“We are so excited to have these three new CASA advocates join our team,” said Julie Luton, CASA Program Director with the Fannin County Children’s Center, which includes the local CASA program. “All of them have dedicated themselves to work the 32 hours of training it takes to be a CASA volunteer. All three are now trained and ready to help children from hard places. Now their CASA journey begins! And as Gandhi said “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.””
In the year ending August 31, 2022, CASA volunteers logged in 2,963 hours serving 66 children in foster care. During the same year, when CASA closed out cases 23% were reunified with their families, 41% went to live permanently with relatives, 32% went to non-relatives and 5% aged out of care.
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 educational, medical, mental health and other needs are met.
CASA is one of several programs for abused and neglected children that are operated by the Fannin County Children’s Center. The next new CASA volunteer training will likely be in January or February 2023. Other volunteer opportunities are available now at the Children’s Center. For more information call (903) 583-4339 or visit www.fanninccc.org.
- Successful School Supply Drive! August 7, 2022
More than 600 students from all over Fannin County received free school supplies on August 6 to start the new school year, thanks to a generous community. This year marked the 26th year that the Fannin County Children’s Center has provided school supplies to local children and youth.
The exact number of students served on Saturday was 605. Organizers expect the final number to grow over the next few days as additional students will be served with the remaining supplies. Misti Tackett and Emily Littleton from Hair Central in Leonard also provided free haircuts to 19 students too.
“Once again, we are very grateful to our generous donors and hard-working volunteers and staff who make this happen every year,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Children’s Center.
“We also appreciate Misti and Emily for generously using their talents to give 19 children free haircuts on Saturday. We also are grateful to Red River Gypsies for loaning us their space, so that the haircuts could be indoors and in a setting suitable for haircuts,” said Barber.
Numerous other organizations braved the heat and set up outside, in front of the center to offer resources to the children and families getting supplies. One City Church gave away 500 breakfast burritos as well as lots of toiletries, baby wipes and diapers. Other vendors included Bailey Inglish Early Childhood Center, Balloons & More, Bonham Public Library, Fannin County Prenancy Care Center, Fannin County Sherriff Office, Meade-Norman Bayless Insurance, Superior HealthPlan, Texas A&M ArgiLife Extension Service, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Star and Texas Health Steps (Maximus) and Workforce Solutions Texoma.
The mission of the Children’s Center is promoting safety and improving the lives of abused and neglected children. In addition to the annual school supply drive, the center operates CASA, Children’s Advocacy Center and child abuse prevention programs. The next CASA volunteer training class starts soon. The deadline to apply online to become a CASA is Aug 22. For more information, call (903) 583-4339 or go to www.fanninccc.org.
- Children’s Center Awards Banquet April 21, 2022
Around one hundred people were in attendance at the Complex in Bonham for a banquet honoring the volunteers and partners of the Fannin County Children’s Center. Attendees included CASA advocates, investigators, prosecutors, therapists, forensic interviewers, caseworkers, attorneys, district judge, board members and other volunteers and professionals involved in the child welfare and criminal justice systems in Fannin County.
Roxanne Wilson and Marta Schreiber received a standing ovation when it was announced that they are the CASA Advocates of the Year. Schreiber has been a CASA advocate for 22 years and Wilson for ten years. The first case they worked together lasted seven years. CASA Program Director Julie Luton described how the two have worked many cases together and experienced many joys, disappointments, successes and struggles along the way as they have advocated for many children in foster care.
Melanie Elliot with the Bonham Police Department was selected as the Multidisciplinary Team Member of the Year for the Children’s Advocacy Center. Members of the multidisciplinary team, which includes professionals from CPS, law enforcement, prosecution, medical and mental health, nominated and voted on the team member of the year. Assistant District Attorney Will Porter and CPS investigator Cody Trauer were recognized for being finalists for the team member of the year award too.
Colleen Ewing was named the Children’s Center Volunteer of the Year. Community Development Director Andrea Lappin described how Ewing volunteers with the annual School Supply and Christmas Drives and other ways around the office. Her cheerful smile and willingness to help get tasks completed in the Rainbow Rooms and around the center are greatly appreciated.
CAC Program Director Michelle Griffith was honored for 25 years of service to the Children’s Center. Griffith has filled many different roles at the center over the years, including being the first forensic interviewer, therapist, clinical director and program director. Executive Director Sandy Barber described Griffith as a leader with a big heart, playful spirit, and deep passion for serving victims of child abuse.
Stephanie Garcia was also recognized by Luton for her recent promotion to Program Director of CPS. Luton described how CASA has appreciated working with Garcia over the 14 years she has worked at the Department.
Numerous CASA Advocates were recognized and received pins for achieving three, five or ten years of service.
Timothy Rountree was the guest speaker for the evening. He is a senior child abuse detective, father, husband and survivor of child sexual abuse. He shared some of his personal story and thanked all who were in attendance for the role they play in helping victims of abuse. Rountree said the two best things to give survivors is courage and hope.
Children’s Center Board President Charlotte Garner welcomed everyone to the event. Children’s Center Board Member and Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church Stuart Courtney gave the blessing for the meal. 336th District Judge Lauri Blake also spoke of her appreciation for all in attendance, especially the CASA advocates that she appoints to cases involving children in foster care.