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Former OHU Executive Director Continues Legacy of Service

Pat Griffith Stoller joined One Hope United when it was known as Central Baptist Family Services. Before working at the organization, she served on several policy committees with the organization’s staff members. She respected these colleagues, and her confidence in the mission grew quickly. 

Pat always knew she wanted to change the world in her own way, and after obtaining her Master’s degree in Social Work, she felt drawn to child welfare. As Executive Director in Southern Illinois, she expanded evidenced-based programming and practices, and always emphasized compassion and enthusiasm. “I have focused my efforts on strengthening families whenever possible,” Pat shared. “Helping families stay together has been a primary focus throughout my 40-year career.” 

Her relationships with leaders in Edgar County, located in Paris, IL, resulted in significant programming funding, benefitting both the Central Baptist Children’s Home and the Lake Villa Residential program. The high quality of care children receive at One Hope United is the component of Pat’s legacy she views as her most valuable contribution. Her years of service continue to make an imprint in the lives of One Hope United staff, children, and families. 

“Pat was a compassionate leader,” Melissa Y. M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of Residential and Day School Programs, shared. “I could call her day and night in a crisis, and she would offer calm and wise counsel. She cared deeply about staff and youth, and she fought to continue programs that served children and families who needed it most.” 

While reflecting on her career, Pat shared she always knew her heart belonged with One Hope United’s mission, and this has kept her involved over the years. “I would encourage anyone interested in making a lasting impact on children and families to utilize planned giving,” Pat said. “One Hope United has a legacy of support that reaches back decades, allowing current services to continue despite changes in funding. 

“I chose to join the Scofield Gibbs to return something to OHU for the opportunities I was given,” she concluded. “I also know that planned gifts are used wisely and effectively.” Pat’s generosity will impact children and families for many years to come.

Learn how you can make an impact for One Hope United through a planned gift. 

40 Years of Excellence in Early Learning Education

Rosanne DeGregorio recently celebrated her retirement after 40 years in early childhood education. She made an immeasurable impact on the lives of thousands of children and families, as well as her fellow teachers and staff who had the opportunity to learn from her. 

The spring of her senior year of college, Rosanne’s sister called to invite her to apply at One Hope United’s Bridgeport I Early Learning Center. She enjoyed her summer so much that she decided to continue teaching at the center. Her experience with one student in particular helped Rosanne see that teaching truly was her calling.

Rosanne was warned that Jo* would be challenging to work with. As weeks passed and Rosanne continued working with Jo, she spent time getting to know her. Rosanne learned that a lot was going on in Jo’s life, and her life outside of school was obviously affecting her ability to focus and perform to the best of her ability in the classroom. Jo and Rosanne became close, and over time, Rosanne taught techniques to help Jo manage her emotions. “I wanted to continue my career in education because of Jo,” Rosanne shared. “Seeing her blossom into a smart, funny student, making friends and enjoying her life, was so rewarding.” 

Rosanne was eventually promoted to Director and earned a scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She developed strong relationships with staff across One Hope United’s early learning programs, and felt her professional experiences were part of her personal evolution throughout the years. “I’ve always wanted to be in a helping profession. Having a job that has meaning and serves families has meant everything to me,” she said. 

Rosanne also shared that she chose to build her career at One Hope United because of the organization’s rich history, and its potential for growth. A few years after she began working at the Brideport I Center, it became the first OHU Early Learning Center to become certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Rosanne was part of the group of educators promoting the importance of NAEYC certification, and understood it was an important distinction which would show the high quality of education OHU Early Learning Centers provided. 

A few of Rosanne’s favorite memories from her career include the thanksgiving dinner Ms. Sadie served at Bridgeport I, staff camping trips, and seeing future generations of families return to the center for their children’s education. 

When asked what advice Rosanne would share with a teacher beginning their career in early education, Rosanne shared, “With so many changes in our world today – from the impact of COVID-19 to changes in funding streams – it’s so important to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances. This field is hard, and it requires your whole heart and soul. You must love this work, and love serving people.” 

In retirement, Rosanne is looking forward to traveling in Italy and Hawaii, and spending time with family. She plans to stay connected to One Hope United, and to early childhood education. “This is my life’s work, and I still have more to contribute,” Rosanne concluded. 

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Learn how you can make an impact for children and families through a career at One Hope United.

 

Building the Mindset to Achieve Greatness Over Time

“Sometimes, a change in their living environment is exactly what a young person needs to leave negative behaviors behind and move forward in a positive direction.” 

When Charles “Chuck” Metellus, MSW, CWCM, Diversion Supervisor with One Hope United, first began working with Sam*, the teenage boy was struggling to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. Several of Sam’s nine siblings had been removed from his mother’s care due to a severe drug addiction, and Sam was experiencing suicidal ideations, which resulted in emergency medical attention. In fact, on several occasions, Sam admitted himself to emergency care. “Sam told me he could only think and be with himself when he was hospitalized,” Chuck said. 

Chuck provided in-home services for Sam in conjunction with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). He also mentored Sam, and took him out to eat. Chuck quickly realized Sam’s environment was the biggest factor holding him back from improving his mental health. “Sam is a smart kid with a lot of potential, but it’s nearly impossible to change when so many of the people closest to you are making unhealthy choices,” Chuck shared. 

Chuck located Sam’s older sister, who was willing and able to provide a healthier home environment for Sam. Chuck was assisted by Child Protective Investigator (CPI), Hipolito, who played a “crucial” role in Sam’s case. At the beginning of March, Sam boarded his first flight to start his new life in North Carolina. 

Since then, Sam has enrolled in his new school, and is doing well academically. He joined the baseball team and hit a home run in his first game. He has remained drug-free since moving to North Carolina. Chuck spoke with Sam on March 29, 2022. Sam was in good spirits and told Chuck he was “doing great.” 

“Family placements are often preferred in cases like Sam’s. His relationship with his sister was already trusting and mutually respectful,” Chuck said. “I am confident this was the best move Sam could have made. He is restructuring his thought patterns and habits in an environment where he has the tools and resources he needs to be happier.”

Chuck has a personal motto that guides the approach he takes in working with youth: “If you search for perfection, you might meet disappointment along the way. However, greatness can be achieved and displayed over time.” He went on to say, “Not every attempt will be a success, and not every shot will go swish. But each person has their entire lifetime to keep trying.” 

He believes looking at a person holistically, rather than only focusing on their addiction, substance abuse or mental health condition, is key to understanding them. Chuck also feels the Trust-Based Relational Interventional Model, which places an emphasis on building rapport and trust, helps him connect with Gen Z youth, as “this generation values authenticity above all else.” 

At the age of 11, Chuck emigrated from Haiti to the United States. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida, and he “stumbled upon” the Case Manager career path when he graduated from college. Already a father of two at the time, he saw Case Management as an avenue to make a difference and live as a servant leader. “The field of Social Work is so important, because many families just need one caring person or one push to get through a challenging time,” Chuck said. “Social workers help remove barriers, so families can continue on their journey.” Chuck earned his Master’s in Social Work in May of 2021. 

Chuck was recently promoted to Assistant Director at OHU’s community home-based placement program, Hope House, where four youth live and receive treatment at a time. “Working with youth makes me feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose on this earth,” Chuck concluded. “I want to be the person I wish I had in my life growing up.” 

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

You can support the efforts of our frontline staff like Chuck, and make a difference for more young people like Sam, by donating.

 

Choosing Steppingstones Over Stumbling Blocks

When William “Bill” Beck received a call from the Director of the Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home (the organization that would later become One Hope United), over 50 years ago, he decided to “contribute what he could” by serving on the Board of Directors. A meeting with Clinton Rogier and Forest Sprehe, who also serve on the board, helped him to grow his understanding of the important work the organization was doing. But at the time, he did not know the mission would make a permanent place in his heart. 

Bill served a term as Board Chair of the Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home and has served on One Hope United’s Board of Directors for over 35 years. However, he modestly considers his impact to be minimal. His role was “to ask the questions that spoke to the financial condition of the organization, as well as the quality of the many programs.” He felt that by asking the right questions and making sure the organization moved forward in a strong financial position, he could help make sure that teachers, therapists, and social workers had the resources they needed to make a lasting impact for children and families. 

Driving home from Board meetings, Bill always took time to reflect on his blessings. The Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home received a donation of prime farmland in Central Illinois about 70 years ago from the Hall family. Bill drives by that farmland every week on his way to the attend the Old Stonington Baptist Church on Sundays and still draws inspiration from that land to this day, because it provides the means to support children and families. He is the third generation of his family to attend the Old Stonington Baptist Church, which was founded 187 years ago. In fact, the Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home was the philanthropic cause this church supported when Bill was growing up. 

Bill graduated from the Reppert School of Auctioneering in 1961. It turned out to be “one of the best investments” he ever made. Today, he enjoys spending time outdoors, and regularly volunteers at his church’s food pantry. He also continues to run his auction business. 

Bill said that one of the most satisfying experiences he has had during his service with One Hope United is observing the talented and committed staff as they support so many children and families. He has also appreciated hearing from former youth in care who have returned to share their experiences at One Hope United events. “Seeing youth who have grown up and built happy lives, surrounded by people who care for them, is fulfilling,” he said. 

Reflecting on his many years of service, Bill shared that his philanthropic involvement opened his eyes to his own blessings and helped him see the importance of giving back to his community. His mother, and the emphasis she placed on spirituality and faith, was an important influence in his life. She felt that “you need to share what you have been blessed with.” Bill feels that a gift to OHU from his estate will have a lasting impact. 

Wise advice from his mother has guided Bill’s life. She said that throughout life’s difficulties, you could choose stumbling blocks or steppingstones. Bill chose the path of service with One Hope United. 

 

Learn how you can make an impact for One Hope United through a planned gift. 

 

What Disney’s “Encanto” Shows About Cultural Competence in Therapy

Movies like Disney’s “Encanto” are drawing attention to the unique challenges Latino and Latina immigrants face. Therapists who spoke with CNN said many first-generation children of immigrants see themselves reflected in “Encanto,” hear their experiences in the soundtrack, and are using the film to speak out about things that otherwise might go unsaid.

We asked One Hope United therapists about the film, and the steps they take to provide culturally informed therapeutic treatment to their clients. Below, Aidee Mireles-Manna, Multi-Systemic Therapy Supervisor with One Hope United, shares her insights.

“The new Disney movie Encanto explores themes and topics that are present in many of our clients’ lives. Clients also see some of their own personality traits in the Encanto characters. For example, Mirabel is striving to keep her family whole; Isabela represents the perfectionist who feels she cannot fail; Luisa feels she must carry the weight of the family on her shoulders; Bruno is the family secret that must go unspoken; and Abuela is the matriarch who unknowingly passes down her trauma.  

The experiences these characters represent, from first-generation immigrants trying to keep their culture alive in a new country, to siblings and parents contending with a family member’s mental health problems or addiction, impact the lives of so many. As therapists, we feel we can help by serving as a bridge between Latino immigrant parents and their children. 

To help families identify triggers related to trauma, we start by helping parents learn how to use self-regulation and coping skills. We shift parents’ thoughts about what topics are “taboo.” Some adults do not want to talk about trauma, sexual abuse, or domestic violence; they may even believe they have to stay in a dangerous relationship to keep their family together. In cases like this, we educate adults about healthy relationships and self-esteem. We prepare them with safety planning and life skills, as well as the best way to approach conversations with their extended family to avoid blaming. Identifying past trauma is key to preventing future trauma. 

Another source of conflict for families is assimilating to a new country. Sometimes, parents are concerned their children will lose their identity or connection with their culture. I have also seen cases where children are embarrassed of parents’ traditions, and this is painful for parents. We want to bring peace to families, along with balance. We strive to help them build a future where parents feel comfortable adjusting to a new culture while preserving their own, and even creating new traditions unique to their own family. We also work to help family members understand what it is like in their loved one’s shoes. Children grow to understand the fears and stress their parents deal with every day, and we highlight the importance of open communication in a safe, healthy environment. 

We also help clients explore the role they play, and the emotional weight they carry, in their family. Children may believe they have to silence their needs, dreams, or goals so they will not be a burden. Immigrant parents often carry the need to “prove” it was worth it to leave their family in their home country by finding financial success in the U.S. We help each family member to identify a healthy and realistic balance. We also try to help parents understand that they do not need to be the “perfect” family or pretend everything is fine when times are tough – it is not weak to need help parenting or building a support system. 

Latino families are proud of being close to each other as one, big, happy group that celebrates birthdays and holidays together, so when families immigrate to the United States, they might feel incomplete without their extended family. Children also miss their extended family and may feel their parents “forced” them to leave their home country. In these cases, therapists focus on identifying the strengths of that specific family, and how they can use those strengths to thrive together in their new environment. 

Our efforts center around helping multi-generational families come to terms with the obstacles they face, so they can build a strong foundation for future generations.” 

Learn more about One Hope United’s Behavioral Health services.

 

 

Dually-Involved Youth Build Bright Futures at Hope House

Michael* first visited Hope House in October of 2020. Without this community home-based program, where only four teenage boys live and receive treatment at a time, he would have been forced to move to a locked down facility in Michigan. Still, Michael was skeptical about Hope House at first.

When Josie Bayona, Director of Programs at Hope House, visited Michael at the group home in which he was staying, he told her that he could not come to Hope House, because he was not interested in following their rules. Josie asked if he would come for just a visit, to have dinner together and meet the other youth. She would take him back to the group home in the morning if he wanted. 

Looking around at the three-story renovated home for the first time, Michael told Josie, “Someday, I want my kids to live in a house like this.” Dancing around, he confidently stated that he wanted to do what was right, so he could live somewhere similar when he grew up. 

Josie shared that she disagreed with previous youth care workers who thought Michael was impossible to work with. “My team is committed to making sure youth are heard, and receive opportunities, even though they are involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems,” she said. “We will hold them accountable for their behavior and choices, but they have the right to be heard like everyone else.

Josie went on to say, Hope House stands out among other programs because it utilizes an Enhanced Home-Based Placement Model. At Hope House, we provide intensive support with a trauma-informed approach. This is an innovative approach which allows us to make a greater impact for our youth.”

In choosing the first Hope House location, Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of Florida Programs, said she wanted to provide “a really comfortable home environment for the young men, first and foremost.” Sarah and her team got the keys to the first Hope House location in August, and since then, have painted the inside of the home a cheerful sky blue, and furnished the home with everything the boys could need. The youth at Hope House focus on independent living skills like improving academic performance, getting a part-time job, and opening a savings account. They also take trips to the beach on the weekend and go out for dinner together with house parents. 

Josie shared, “I want people to know that we’re a program within a program. Our home is not just a place where our boys eat and sleep. They participate in therapy and have access to a lot of services and support. It is not common to find a full-time therapist and nurse for a group home serving four boys, in addition to partnerships with external therapeutic agencies.” 

Josie went on to say, “It has been amazing to see the progress we have made in just one year. We are helping our community partners see that we are taking a new and innovative approach. Our funders are seeing the growth and change in our kids, and they are seeing that our model works. It is exciting to have conversations about expanding, so we can serve more kids.” 

Youth who come to Hope House may be used to getting what they want through intimidation or scare tactics. Jose said that once house parents and staff build relationships with the boys, and provide them with structure and consistency, they see the boys’ walls come down. “It might take a while for them to see it, but eventually the boys understand that we really are here for them,” Josie said. 

“The boys also trust that if I tell them something, I’m not lying to them,” Josie shared. “I promise each young man that I will do everything I can to set them up for success.” 

Liam* was placed at Hope House shortly after Michael. He experienced many obstacles, and as his drug use continued to worsen, he was hospitalized a few times. Josie helped Liam understand that in-patient drug treatment would be the right decision, but Liam feared he would be left at the drug treatment facility for months – something that had happened to him in the past. Josie promised Liam she would be there for him until his last day in treatment.  

Liam ran away to Texas for two weeks, and when he returned, Josie worked with judge to make sure he could stay at Hope House after completing treatment. “That night, when he was released to our custody with an electronic monitoring device, he told me ‘Miss Josie, I know you’re fighting for me.’ I told him that I couldn’t fight for him if he wouldn’t fight for himself,” Josie said. When she drove Liam to the treatment facility, she told him he would face more severe issues with the court if he ran again. He said, “Miss Josie, I won’t run as long as you’re there with me.” 

Six weeks later, Liam was released from the drug treatment center, and Josie was there waiting for him at discharge. He successfully completed probation and is currently attending an alternative school while living at Hope House.  

When Liam completed probation in October, he took a moment to reflect on his progress with Josie. In just one calendar year, Liam had completed drug treatment and probation, and was on the path to graduate from high school. 

Liam told Josie that he had not believed her when she told him he would soon be in a better place, but he believes it now. “He said he wants to keep in touch with me forever and wants me to meet his wife and children someday,” Josie said. “Liam’s is an amazing success story that has helped bring down the other boys’ walls. They see our commitment and they know we aren’t going anywhere.” 

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 

 

 

Providing Hope and Healing to Survivors of Human Trafficking

January is National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is a pervasive issue that impacts millions of children, youth, and adults every yearand youth in foster or Residential care are at heightened risk. In fact, the National Foster Youth Institute recently estimated that 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims have had at least one foster care placement.  

“Human traffickers intentionally target vulnerable children and youth,” said Sarah Tunning, LMHC, CWCM, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Florida Programs. “It’s imperative that we find stable, long-term placements for foster youth, where they will have the supportive relationships they need to avoid the people who wish to harm them.” 

Read below to learn more about human trafficking, and the steps One Hope United takes to help survivors find hope and healing.

What is Human Trafficking? 

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. 

Children, youth, and adults are trafficked every day, right under the eyes of their friends and neighbors, in every community in America. Some signs and indicators of human trafficking may be surprising, while others are easily identifiable. 

Youth in the child welfare system are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for many reasons. After experiencing trauma or abuse, they have negative, warped perceptions of how they should be treated, or what they deserve. Traffickers may lure their victims with words of love and affirmation, and expensive gifts. When they later become physically violent or are ready to coerce their victim to provide labor or services, their victim often is emotionally and financially reliant on their trafficker and feels there is no possible way for them to get out. 

Identifying signs of human trafficking 

According to hopeforjustice.org, there are several indicators of human trafficking: 

  • Houses or flats with too many people, all picked up or dropped off at the same time 
  • People who seem scared, confused or have untreated injuries 
  • Few or no documents, or someone else in control of their documents/passport 
  • Low or no pay 
  • Limited freedom of movement and dependency on others
  • Note: Those affected are unlikely to self-identify as a ‘victim’ and may not realize or accept they are being controlled 

Preventing human trafficking

One Hope United’s Case Managers and staff take proactive measures to protect foster and Residential youth from traffickers. Staff at OHU’s Residential programs in Illinois have even collaborated with law enforcement in the past to help break up human trafficking rings. 

OHU staff shared that youth are at increased risk of being trafficked when they go on run from their foster or Residential placement. Staff members said that many young people in Residential homes are teenagers who have had very little structure for most of their lives. When they enter the child welfare system, much of their freedom and independence goes away. In this new restrictive environment, they begin to grapple with painful memories and emotions, which triggers a desire to run. OHU staff members work to help youth understand that although they have responded to difficult situations in the past in the best way they knew how, by running, that response is no longer necessary for their safety.

Melissa Y. M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of Residential and Day School Programs, said, “When we know youth have a secret, we listen to them, and try to show them they are safe with us. Consistency and support from staff are the biggest factors in preventing youth from going on run.

“When a youth returns from run, we tell are so glad they chose to come back – now let’s talk about what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Providing hope and healing to survivors 

When a youth returns to foster or Residential care after being trafficked, staff go through a debriefing process with them, which includes a medical assessment, and an independent investigation conducted by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). 

In the weeks and months after a youth has returned to OHU after being trafficked, staff engage them in therapy, as well as conversations that happen organically when youth are ready to share their thoughts and feelings with staff. Jessica Perry, Director of Residential Clinical Services at OHU’s Centralia and Lake Villa campuses, shared that she and her team use a therapeutic technique called “unconditional positive regard” to help youth understand that what they went through wasn’t their fault – it was the fault of their abuser. She said, “We never want youth to feel ashamed or judged. We are always there to provide immediate attention and support, whenever youth need it. We meet them where they are emotionally, and work to help them understand that they deserve so much better. They deserve to be safe.” 

Jessica concluded, “If a youth is only in our care for a short period of time, at a critical phase in their development, we owe them all the support and love we can give them.” 

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text 233733. Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking.

Hope Talks | December 2021

Hope Talks

“The Impact of Partnership”

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Hope Talks 

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve. 

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by Lauren Wright, Executive Director, Illinois Partners for Human Service, to discuss The Impact of Partnership.

About Lauren Wright

Lauren is driven to create a more equitable future for all Illinoisans. Her vision and experience with building global coalitions, cultivating relationships with diverse stakeholders and creating new opportunities for growth and sustainability are at the core of the Illinois Partners mission.

Lauren previously served as the Director of Programs at Mama Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to partnering with grassroots organizations around the world and investing in programs that support education, climate justice, health, gender equality and financial security. Lauren holds a Master of Arts in Sustainable Development from SIT Graduate Institute and a master’s degree in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University. Lauren represents Illinois Partners as a member of the State Health Improvement Plan Committee, the Responsible Budget Coalition, Vote Yes for Fair Tax Ballot Committee, Westside ConnectED, and the Illinois Count Me in 2020 Steering Committee.

About One Hope United 

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential. 

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Supporting Older Youth in Care

Barbara Rosga has always been passionate about supporting older youth who have not grown up with a traditional family structure. “My heart goes out to the young men at One Hope United’s Rebound program, who have to support themselves at age 18,” Barbara shared. “These young men are important, and they deserve a chance. We can help them get an education and provide the structure they need. What a miracle to be able to guide them and support them on their journey to becoming responsible and fulfilled adults.” 

Barbara is a member of One Hope United’s Scofield-Gibbs Society, and she has given generously to OHU’s Rebound and Home Visiting programs for many years. When Barbara reflects on the struggles her own family faced throughout her childhood, she remembers that even during challenging times, she and her three older brothers always had the love and support of their mother to fall back on. When Barbara thinks of the young men at Rebound, she thinks of her older brothers. “My brothers had a strong family connection, and all of the resources they needed to succeed. The young men at Rebound deserve that, too. They deserve everything we can give them.” 

After living most of her life in Chicago, Barbara recently moved to Michigan, where she is enjoying retirement. She began her career as a billing clerk, but she “never dreamed” of the success she would eventually find, rising to Vice President at a major advertising company. “Now I have enough resources to share,” Barbara said. “I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing with others.” 

Barbara is also an avid traveler. One day, while walking back to her office over lunch, Barbara noticed a poster hanging in a travel agency’s window, advertising a trip around the world. She brought the flyer home and asked if her mother would like to join her on her first-ever trip around the world. Since then, Barbara has visited 128 countries, been around the world three times, and visited all continents and states in the U.S. A few of her favorite travel experiences include going on safari in Southern Africa, and walking the streets of Petra, an ancient city in Jordan. She believes “experiences are the best investments you can make. Traveling is a wonderful way to spend your time.” 

After Barbara retired, she was recommended to serve on One Hope United’s Board of Directors by a close friend, John Dawson, from her church, North Shore Baptist Church.  She and North Shore have partnered as donors with matching gifts from their foundation. Joyce Heneberry, Planned Giving Officer with One Hope United, shared, “Barbara’s interest in serving older youth in care, a group that is often overlooked by other people and by society, speaks to her character. I hope she feels proud of the impact she has made with One Hope United.”

Barbara celebrated her 90th birthday on November 16. Her humble spirit and passion for supporting the youth in One Hope United’s care continues to inspire members of the One Hope United community.

Learn how you can make an impact for One Hope United through a planned gift. 

Creating a Happy Holiday Season for Youth in Residential Care

Many youth who complete treatment and step down from One Hope United’s Residential programs have fond memories of their time at their OHU home. Of all the experiences and memories they create at One Hope United, former clients share that the holiday season is their favorite and happiest time. In this special guest blog, Melissa Y. M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of Residential and Day School Programs, and Sarah Tunning, LMHC, CWCM, Executive Director of Florida Programs, share how they and their teams create a happy holiday season for the youth in their care. 

Melissa Y. M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of Residential Programs 

When we hear from former clients from our Centralia and Lake Villa Residential programs in Illinois, it is usually around the holidays. They love to reminisce about activities, gifts they’ve received, and the big holiday party. 

Some children and youth love to drive through our communities with staff and look at the holiday lights. Our youth also enjoy decorating their bedrooms and our communal areas, as well as crafting homemade ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree. Throughout the holiday season, we drink hot chocolate, and bake cookies and other holiday treats. Children and youth help staff bake special desserts, trying new recipes and learning new skills along the way. 

And the gifts! Gifts are an undeniable part of the holidays, and for many of our youth, it is the best holiday they have ever had. Youth are encouraged to make wish lists, and we work with generous individuals and organizations in our communities to make those wishes come true. Making a holiday wish list is challenging for some youth, as some have not had special holidays in the past. If I could give any gift to the generous people who donate gifts, it would be to see the faces and hear the joy that our youth express when they open their gifts. 

Our holiday parties vary from site to site. Many of the young boys in our care enjoy fun holiday games and like to win prizes. Our girls talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus about their wishes. The Christmas story is read, usually by a youth who volunteers for the honor. Our oldest young men prepare their own holiday dinner, with coaching and guidance from staff. The food is the highlight of the celebration, as it is for most families.  

Some youth visit families as a part of the season. Our youth who do not have traditional families celebrate with us. We do our best to make sure those who remain with us create special holiday memories. 

One Hope United’s Residential staff, many of whom leave their families to celebrate with our children, talk about the joy our youth express. Staff members share that so many youth are genuinely appreciative and astounded at the gifts they receive. It makes leaving their own children behind for part of that day easier, knowing what special memories they help create. 

Sarah Tunning, LMHC, CWCM, Executive Director of Florida Programs 

This year, at Hope House, our Florida Residential program where four boys receive individualized treatment and care in a home-based setting, our holiday season kicked off on December 8. One Hope United volunteers decorated the three-story home while our boys and house parents went out for a nice seafood dinner. When the boys returned, they found decorative snowmen, a Christmas tree, and special holiday mugs with hot chocolate kits. Santa also visited the boys that evening, and chatted with them about their wish lists. 

One of the most exciting and unique things about the approach we take at Hope House is our emphasis on family connections. In many situations, dually involved youth – youth who are involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, like those we serve at Hope House – face many restrictions that prevent them from visiting with family members. Even before Hope House opened, these family relationships have been a priority for us. If it is possible for the youth we serve to have positive relationships with their families, we will do everything we can to support these relationships.

Experiences like celebrating the holidays, going on trips, seeing family members, even going to the grocery store…these events, from the memorable ones to the day-to-day outings, often go away for youth when they enter group care. Providing these experiences creates normalcy for our youth, and normalcy helps relieve anxiety and depression as youth settle into their new routines at Hope House. 

The boys we serve have been through severe trauma, and most of their previous holiday experiences were not positive. At Hope House, we aim to change how they feel about the holiday season – helping them feel hope for the future, in an environment where they are surrounded by people who care about them. 

Want to make a difference for the youth we serve? Make a donation this holiday season.

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