Gift donations brighten holiday for many children

The holidays were brighter for many children served by One Hope United programs in Collinsville, Ill., thanks to employees from the local Victoria’s Secret and Pink retail stores who donated gifts as part of the stores’ holiday Giving Tree program. 

“The Giving Tree is something I look forward to every year,” said Samantha Merlak, a Victoria’s Secret manager. “Christmas is my most favorite time of the year and I truly believe there is no greater gift than giving.” 

Employees from Victoria’s Secret and Pink, located in the St. Clair Square shopping center in Fairview Heights, Ill., chose One Hope United as the recipient of their annual program, which provides gifts for children and families in need. 

Store employees each shopped for one or two children based on “wish lists” provided by One Hope United. More than 50 children received gifts, making the retail outlets two of the largest Collinsville donors this season, said Jayme Godoyo, OHU fund development officer. 

“I love that something so small I did is going to make such a big difference in a child’s life,” added a Pink employee. 

Pictured are Victoria’s Secret and Pink store employees with holiday gifts they donated for children served by One Hope United programs in Collinsville, Ill.

Foster Grandparent Program celebrates 10 years

One Hope United’s Foster Grandparent Program in Mt. Vernon, Ill., celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, with an open house attended by community partners, including funding sources, school personnel, and other program supporters.

The program’s seniors, ages 55 years and older, volunteer 20 to 40 hours a week to tutor and mentor at-risk children in places such as schools, daycares, Head Starts, early learning centers and faith-based youth programs.

“The Foster Grandparent Program has helped the area schools in so many ways due to budget constraints,” said Jennifer Witzel, program coordinator. “Many teachers and administrators have told us that without the volunteers in their school there would be a huge void.”

Foster grandparents aim to “ensure that the children they serve have a bright future,” Witzel added.

Helping children also can benefit the volunteers.

“The Foster Grandparent Program through One Hope United gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” said volunteer Gene Shirley. “After my husband died, I struggled with depression and high blood pressure. After I had been in the program for a month, I went to my doctor. He said, ‘Gene, what have you been doing?’ I thought I was in trouble. He said, ‘Your blood pressure has improved and your outlook in life has done a 360.’ I shared with the doctor about the program, and he said, ‘Keep it up.’ I just love the kids.”

During its first year, the program had eight volunteers serving 25 children in five locations. Now, there are 34 volunteers serving more than 200 children in 34 locations.

Local high school holds fundraiser for OHU

One Hope United – Hudelson Region recently received $200 from Charleston High School’s 2011-2012 student council class, which made OHU its Charity of Choice for a fundraiser. The Illinois high school’s student council raised the money selling glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces at sporting events.

One Hope United – Hudelson Region offers numerous services within the Charleston community and surrounding counties, including foster care, specialized foster care, Intact Family Services, Adoption Preservation, System of Care and counseling.

Dalton Runyon (pictured), Charleston High School’s Student Council president and 2012 graduate, recently presented the check to Kathy Davis, foster care supervisor at One Hope United in Charleston.


OHU youth therapy team recognized for 'outstanding' work

One Hope United’s Multisystemic Therapy (MST) team in Mt. Vernon, Ill., was awarded a certificate of recognition by the MST “Whatever it Takes” program for its “outstanding and meritorious” work.

“MST Services acknowledged the OHU MST Team for its excellent outcomes and superior adherence to the model as demonstrated by a completion rate consistently above the 85 percent that is expected, a measure of therapist fidelity that was 100 percent and of supervisor fidelity that is consistently at the high end of the measurement tool,” said MST System Supervisor Liz Buchanan.

The Mt. Vernon team includes Supervisor Jennifer Shook, Michelle Troyer, Sophia Ruffin and Afthan Taylor.

The MST program is an evidence-based treatment approach to serving youth in their communities. It aims to keep families together by reducing the risk of out-of-home placement.

Youth treated in the program have chronic delinquent behavior and school issues. MST also helps parents build supportive social networks and empower them to more effectively address the needs of their children.

The OHU team manages difficult cases and covers a large geographic area.

“When the data is reviewed for all teams internationally the OHU staff stands out for their strong clinical skill, persistence and high commitment to families,” Buchanan said.

OHU staff organizes fundraiser in Hudelson Region


The One Hope United staff in Charleston, Ill., organized a fundraiser at Monical’s Pizza on Tuesday, July 31, raising nearly $300 for the agency.

Many people came to the Charleston restaurant at lunchtime carrying flyers, which allowed OHU to receive 20 percent of the customer’s total bill. In an effort to bring further recognition to OHU and help people in the community understand what we do, the staff also attached an “About Us” section to each flyer. Monical’s restaurants in Mattoon, Sullivan and Arcola, Ill., also participated in the fundraiser.

Special recognition and thanks goes to OHU employees Kristy Hardwick, Heather Drake and Casey Hoenes for going above and beyond to make sure flyers were passed out in all four locations! Great teamwork!

One Hope United’s Charleston staff (pictured) organized an OHU fundraiser at four Monical’s Pizza restaurants on July 31.

OHU residential treatment helps teen accept responsibility, resolve conflict

Hudelson Region: Brandon, 16, is the oldest of four children of divorced parents. He was removed from his mother’s home because she felt she couldn’t handle him. He refused to go to school and had legal problems, including theft, property destruction and truancy. This caused much conflict with his mother and siblings.

When Brandon entered One Hope United’s residential treatment program, he struggled with structure and was argumentative. He also owed legal fines. One Hope United offered Brandon a chance to do restitution to earn money to pay them off. Brandon resented having to work, but the One Hope United team helped him realize he had to pay off his debts and leave his legal troubles behind him.

Over time, Brandon started to work towards paying his fines and began treatment with a therapist and treatment team. He began having visits with his family: one weekend with his mother, and the next with his father. Family therapy took place with his mom, and with his dad, and then with both. Within nine months, Brandon was able to return to his mother’s home. He attends school every day. The treatment team is most proud of how he matured while in treatment. He is a role model for his younger siblings and paid off most of his fines. Brandon is working at a farm to continue paying his debts rather than burdening his mother with them. He accepts responsibility for his consequences. One Hope United continues to work with Brandon in aftercare, helping find services and resolve conflict with his mother, father and siblings.

OHU Recognizes Staff for Representing Agency’s Promises

One Hope United gave out the 2012 Promise Awards to nine staff members at the joint board meeting on June 15. The awards recognize employees who exemplify the agency promises of hope, collaboration, innovation, leadership and results.

Below is a list of this year’s award winners:

Hope Awards: Denny Clouse and Adrienne Patterson Green

The Hope Award recognizes employees who inspire others; present a hopeful, positive outlook for the future; embrace our mission; serve as agency ambassadors; encourage others; are persistent; and promote a culture of respect.


Leadership Award: Margaret Vergamini and Emily Blackburn

Leadership Award winners are inspiring, visionary strategists; enable others to act; model the way; encourage the heart; challenge the process; and inspire a shared vision.

Innovation Award: Katrina Brewsaugh and Rachel Stransky

Innovation Award recipients model the way by thinking outside the box; challenging the process; bringing solutions to problems; finding a better way to do business; and serving as implementers and trailblazers.


Results Award: Sarah Tunning

This award is given for being an achiever; having a relentless pursuit of excellence; being passionate about quality and attention to detail; seeing projects through and closing the communication loop; and believing improvement is possible.


Collaboration Award: Jean F. Nobbe

The Collaboration Award acknowledges an employee for modeling the way by embracing partnerships and outreach; practicing servant-leadership; valuing teamwork and communication; and promoting a culture of respect.


In addition, this year the Executive Leadership Team gave out a special Super Star award to recognize the significant contribution of one of its own.

Super Star Award 2012: Dr. Fotena A. Zirps

This award recognizes exceptional leadership and innovation, and it offers appreciation for lighting a path for future One Hope United leaders to flourish.


Congratulations to all the award winners and thank you for your dedication to protecting children and strengthening families!

To download and/or view all the Promise Award photos, click here.


WTHI-TV Interviews One Hope United Dad for Fostering Families on Father's Day Story

One Hope United foster parents Richard and Karla Dyring of Casey, Ill., shared their experience fostering four boys under 7 years old in a Father’s Day story for WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Ind.

“When one of them comes up to you and says, ‘Rich, I love you!’ or something like that, it really hits you. It hits your heart,” Richard Dyring said, adding, “We gotta do what we can do to help out.”

Click here to watch the segment.