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Continuing a Legacy of Servant Leadership 

Pictured: Clarke Robinson with his four children at his 90th birthday. Left to right: Sarah Michael, Philip Robinson, Clarke Robinson (center, seated), Jim Robinson, and Becky Reeve.

Clarke Robinson held many titles in his life: student, Harvard-educated lawyer, husband, father, church leader, quilter, rare book collector, history enthusiast, and early childhood education advocate. As one of the founding members of One Hope United’s Scofield-Gibbs Society, Clarke’s spirit of service will continue through his charitable major trust. Because of Clarke’s generosity and commitment to One Hope United’s mission, the organization will have the resources it needs to serve thousands of children and families for years to come. 

Clarke’s passion for giving back began at an early age. After moving from New England to Mount Prospect, Illinois as a child, his family soon became active in the Baptist Church in their neighborhood. Clarke also met his wife of 56 years, Lucia, through her father, who was the pastor at their church. For many years, Clarke’s church supported the Central Baptist Orphanage – the organization that would one day be known as One Hope United. 

Becky Reeve, Clarke’s daughter, shared, “My dad was a humble servant throughout his entire life. He always did what he could to help people, often quietly and without seeking recognition. He understood that in life, you plant seeds, often without knowing what will come of your efforts – but you plant seeds for future growth and happiness for your loved ones, and for your community.” 

After attending Harvard Law School, Clarke returned home to Illinois, where he served as a Probate and Estate Planning Lawyer in Chicago for over 40 years. Through their church and philanthropic involvement, Clarke and Lucia learned more about foster care, and even though they had four biological children already, they answered the call to become foster parents. Their teenage foster son was with them for five years, and their foster son later shared that he felt their family “saved his life.” He served in the United States Marine Corps and has built a happy life with his wife and three children. Years later, he spoke at a One Hope United board meeting about his experiences in foster care. He shared that when he was growing up, he heard a lot of kids say they wanted to be a police officer, fire fighter, or teacher. What he wanted was to be a parent like Clarke. 

Soon after welcoming his foster son into his family, Clarke joined the Central Baptist Children’s Home’s Board of Directors. He served as Chairman of the Board for many years, and saw the organization through several periods of growth, including the organization’s expansion into early learning. Clarke became closely involved with OHU’s preschool programs, developing an interest in the connection between early learning and children’s future academic development. 

Clarke said, “I grew my understanding of the needs of children, and I’m generally very satisfied with what I’ve seen and what I’ve been able to do with One Hope United.” He also shared that one of his favorite aspects of his involvement with OHU was bringing members of his church to tour and read to children at the Elgin Early Learning Center. 

Clarke’s daughter, Becky, shared that Clarke was able to accomplish so much in his life because he had a loving partner standing beside him. “A lot of what he was able to do at OHU was done with and because of mom,” Becky said. “They showed us kids the importance of giving what we could to our community.” The Robinson family also enjoyed supporting and volunteering at many One Hope United events throughout the years, including the Annual Charity Golf Outing. 

“Clarke was humble and unassuming, considering all he accomplished personally and professionally,” said Joyce Heneberry, Planned Giving Officer at One Hope United. “He approached our early learning programs with such intellect and curiosity. I admire him so much.”

RJ Young, former Chairman of One Hope United’s Board of Directors, and Joyce Heneberry felt privileged to present One Hope United’s Life Director Award to Clarke at his church. Clarke passed away in March of 2021. He is survived by four children, eleven grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren. One Hope United is grateful for the spirit of love, service, and generosity Clarke shared with our organization, and the impact he continues to have in the lives of the children and families we serve. 

 

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

 

Building the Mindset for a Social Services Career

Guest blog written by Melissa Y.M. Webster, M.S., LCPC, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Residential and Day School Programs

With the employment landscape changing every day in this country, industries like social welfare must adapt and innovate in order to continue to provide the critical, often life-saving services our young people need. I supervise One Hope United’s residential programs, which provide live-in care for youth whose needs are best addressed in a highly structured environment. The young adults we serve have a history of trauma, and they need our support 24 hours a day. While the situations we face are often painful and overwhelming, our work is also incredibly rewarding. My staff and I go home every day knowing that we helped a young person feel seen and loved.  

You can imagine the challenges a global pandemic and employment crisis pose in our line of work. While these obstacles are significant, our team is working hard to meet the present moment head on. 

When considering what makes our programs unique and how we have been able to respond during this time, I have found three unique approaches that we have taken have helped us find the best people to serve our youth. If you are interested in a career in social services, whether it be as a residential youth care worker or a similar position, these tips can help you gain the tools you need to build your career – and in turn, make a difference in someone’s life. 

First, find your why. This is imperative for staff members at every level, from senior managers to entry-level youth care workers. Once you know why you are here, you can encourage those around you. I have young team members who have served youth and families for over 10 years. Many started when they were 21 or 22 years old, and they have remained in the field and at One Hope United. 

Our world is full of opportunities, and many of these talented and committed team members could find meaningful and lucrative employment in a myriad of fields. Why do they choose One Hope United? There are many reasons, but I believe the biggest reason is that these young professionals have found their “why.” 

Simon Senek gave a highly viewed Ted Talk on finding your why: your purpose, your calling, your beliefs. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Why this job and why stay?

I have done this work for a long time. I know why I am here, and what drives me to keep doing this hard work every day. My residential team members have found their whys. They are pulled out of bed in the morning by a love of serving teens who have suffered trauma, who often have mental health issues and behavior disorders. The days are always challenging, and sometimes the struggles our youth face drive people away. But those who stay do so because they have found greater purpose in remaining committed to extremely demanding yet fulfilling work.

Next, find your team. Social services professionals are team driven. We work seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We do it because we are committed to our youth, but we also do it because we are committed to each other. 

Residential folks have found a tribe in their team members. At One Hope United, we are a team of people who share a passion to serve this population of youth. We serve alongside inspiring professionals and paraprofessionals who, in the deepest part of their souls, want the world to be a better place, one youth at a time. What a blessing it is to have a workplace where we come together, see a vision for a different kind of world, and work with people we like and respect to reach that vision. Once you find your why and your team, it is hard to imagine doing anything else. 

Finally, help others see the value of what we do. Most of our residential programs at One Hope United had their roots in orphanages founded over 125 years ago. There is a mythos in our culture around the orphanage and orphans: think of Dicken’s Oliver Twist and Annie. It’s important that whenever we can, we challenge misconceptions about the work we do, and help our friends, family members, and the general public gain a more accurate understanding of what modern residential programs actually look like. 

When people learn what I do, they always want to know more. They always want to hear the stories. What I am proud to tell you after almost a quarter of a century in this field is that we make a difference. From the first youth served at the beginning of my career to now, many of them still reach out. They tell us we made an impact in their lives: who they are today was in part shaped by us. We see their children, their work, and who they have become as an adult. They share their accomplishments and their challenges. 

A key part of attracting the right people to serve our youth is finding people who care that the work they do today will create happier and more successful adults, five, ten, twenty-five or fifty years in the future. Many jobs are rewarding, but our careers help support a shifted trajectory of the lives of youth who have suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in the most traumatic ways possible. 

Final Thoughts: Even as essential workers who have been on the frontline throughout this challenging time, our focus remains on providing the highest standard of care possible to the vulnerable youth we serve. Our young people deserve the opportunity to build happy, healthy lives, and we help equip them with the tools they need to do so. I know that if you choose a career in social services, you will find fulfillment in a mission centered around serving others.

Want to make a difference in the life of a child, youth, or family? Learn about current employment opportunities with One Hope United here. 

No Longer Silent

“You are the strongest person to ever sit in that chair,” Judge Ericka Sanders said to 16-year-old Bailey*. Bailey and her team of OHU counselors listened intently as Judge Sanders went on to praise Bailey for sharing her story of trauma and abuse, and bravely taking the next step in her healing process.   

Bailey’s testimony comes three years after that of her twin sister, Bree*, who testified in court to the horrific abuse both girls endured at the hands of their adoptive father. This man is now in prison for the sexual assault of Bree that resulted in a pregnancy at the age of 13, and for the kidnapping of Bree and her son, Eli*. In the same year that Bree became pregnant, the girls lost their mother to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that also inhabits Bailey’s body.   

Because Bree was the only victim identified in the case, Bailey was denied the opportunity to testify at their adopted father’s trial. For three years, Bailey has carried the weight of this forced silence with her. She has since been placed at One Hope United’s Centralia residential home for a second time after struggling with self-harm, suicidal ideations, and depression.  

In February of 2020, Bailey’s counselors had an idea. The team wondered what would be different for Bailey if she could rewrite her narrative. What if she could tell her story to someone who could make real changes in the system? How would life be different for Bailey if she had her day in court? Judge Ericka Sanders, the Marion County Juvenile Judge, agreed that Bailey deserved this opportunity.  

Judge Sanders has made great efforts to prioritize the mental health of any youth who comes into her courtroom. Knowing Judge Sanders’ propensity to be an agent of change, Bailey’s care team reached out to her with a novel idea. The team wanted to bring Bailey to the courthouse to testify in front of a judge and to share the story she had been unable to tell three years prior. Within 15 minutes of the email being sent, Judge Sanders responded saying she would be honored to help.   

Two weeks later, Judge Sanders met with Bailey’s care team at a local coffee house to iron out the details. OHU counselors Jayme Godoyo, Sarah Downen, Brandon Newcomer, and Jessica Perry shared more details of Bailey’s story with Judge Sanders. They agreed that Bailey’s court session should be treated as if it were a real court session, complete with Judge Sanders in her black robe and calling court into session for The People vs. Bailey’s abuser. Judge Sanders also shared with the team that the courthouse now has access to a therapy dog, and that it would be a good idea for Bailey to first practice being in the courtroom. The team agreed Bailey would love this idea, and it would be the perfect opportunity for the dog to use his skills.   

On the day of Bailey’s court session, Judge Sanders offered her the choice to sit at a table or in the witness stand. Without hesitating, Bailey chose the witness stand.   

When Bailey took her seat to the left side of the judge, she paused for a moment. Bailey was given the space and silence she needed to collect herself as her counselor, Jayme Godoyo, took a seat next to her. Quietly, Jayme provided Bailey the comfort she needed to regain her composure. Not sure where to begin, Jayme encouraged Bailey to start with her earliest memory.  

The adults in the room sat silent and still, fighting back tears at times, as Bailey took the next thirty minutes to tell the story she had waited years to tell. With Jayme at her side, Bailey recounted the abuse she endured, the devastation she felt over her mom’s death, and the guilt she still carries with her today because she couldn’t stop her sister Bree’s sexual assault. “I’m protective of her,” Bailey said. “I’m happy we have Eli [Bree’s son], but I’m sad she got pregnant.”   

When Bailey finished, she looked out onto the small crowd of people and said, “does anyone have any questions?” The conviction in her tone was that of a young woman in control of a room. When asked what advice she would give to other young girls who may have shared similar experiences, without hesitation Bailey softly but strongly stated, “Keep fighting…always keep fighting.”   

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 

 LEARN MORE ABOUT OHU’S RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS

One Hope United Hosts ‘Foster Boy’ Screening and Talkback

One Hope United partnered last week with attorney and producer/writer Jay Paul Deratany to host a screening of his new film, Foster Boy, followed by a talkback and reception.

Foster Boy tells the story of an African American teenager who was physically and sexually abused by an older foster care teen after the two were placed in the same home by a for-profit foster care company.

View the event photos on our Facebook page here

As a nonprofit agency providing foster care services, One Hope United hosted the screening to share the powerful film with its supporters and bring attention to the danger that arises when organizations put profits ahead of children’s well-being.

“A child is not a commodity,” Deratany told a capacity audience at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. “You have to give a kid a chance. You have to give them some hope.”

The movie was inspired by three true foster care abuse cases in which Deratany was involved and stars Matthew Modine as the attorney and Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. as the judge. Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, a child advocate himself who took a special interest in the movie’s topic, is an executive producer.

In the talkback, moderator Charles A. Montorio-Archer, President and CEO of One Hope United, asked Deratany about the role of the arts in raising awareness about this and other serious topics.

“We have to tell stories of abuse, we have to tell stories about racial prejudice, we have to tell stories that bring us back together as a country, that unite us again,” Deratany answered. We have to come together to conquer some of the problems that we have.”

Melissa Webster, One Hope United’s Executive Director of Residential and Day Treatment Services, spoke on the panel about the film’s realistic depiction of the effects of trauma on youth.

“One thing that trauma robs from kids is that sense that they have a future,” said Webster. “A big part of what we do is help them find that hope so they can start to see that they’re going to have a future as well, that they have a chance to have a different kind of life.”

“One Hope United does some great work,” Deratany said. “We have to give recognition to a great group like this, because we need to continue to fight for our kids.”

To support children in foster care who have experienced trauma, you may donate to One Hope United here.

 

More Information

Become a One Hope United foster parent.

Visit the Foster Boy website.

Read an interview with Jay Paul Deratany.

Watch a video from the event.

Pathfinders Helps Preschooler Heal From Exposure To Domestic Abuse

Innovative therapeutic program helps preschool children cope with difficult emotions and lead more positive lives.

When Lucy*, 5, first arrived at One Hope United’s Elgin Child & Family Resource Center, she was extremely sensitive to loud noises, covering her ears and experiencing severe anxiety whenever another child would cry out—which, at a child care center, can be often. When she was frustrated or experienced even the slightest discipline, “she would scream at the top of her lungs, as if she were afraid for her life,” pounding on the wall and stomping her feet, her mother, Krista*, explains. “I knew right away I needed help.”

Lucy’s behavior was related to traumas she had experienced as a very young child. She witnessed physical abuse by her biological father toward her mother, and while he never physically harmed Lucy, when she would have tantrums as a 2- and 3-year-old, hewould rush toward her with raised fists in an attempt to make herto stop. “She went through a lot,” Krista says.

While those traumas were fortunately in the past, their effects were disrupting Lucy’s education and potentially that of her classmates. In addition, adverse childhood experiences can have long-term effects on children’s health, behavior, and life potential. It’s for children like Lucy that One Hope United began Pathfinders, a unique program that combines aspects of our family counseling programs with our early childhood education centers to help children cope with negative emotions and adopt healthier behaviors.

Pathfinders therapist Tara Cassidy says the program is a collaboration with the child, their family, and their teacher.

Sometimes it’s the teacher who notices an issue and alerts Tara, who will then engage the child’s family to offer support, which is covered through private insurance or Medicaid. She will observe and engage with the child in the classroom, with their family, and in individual sessions, and craft a treatment plan that often involves the family due to the child’s young age. The evidence-based treatment is called Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency.

One boy who was predisposed to depression learned deep breathing and created a book of coping skills. “On one page he put all the things that he liked to do, so if he was feeling down, he could just go in his book and see, ‘I could go ride my bike,I could go take a walk,’ things that would help him get out of a low mood,” Tara says.

Another child who struggled with tantrums learned to express her emotions and tell her loved ones why she was upset. Her coping skills included coloring and walking the dog—a therapy dog that was part of her treatment. Tara also taught her family to recognize when the girl needed help and step in with an activity. “Because they’re so young, sometimes they don’t just say, ‘I need to go use a coping skill,’” she says.

It’s important to make the sessions and treatment fun so the kids will want to continue. “They may think we’re just playing, but we’re really doing therapy,” Tara says. “If they don’t have fun, they won’t want to be there, and they won’t learn as much. People learn better when they’re enjoying it.”

Krista says that Lucy is “a completely different little girl” as a result of Pathfinders. Through the program, Lucy has increased her self-esteem, developed confidence, grown more talkative,made more friends, and no longer covers her ears at loud noises. “I can’t say enough how amazing the program has been for my daughter. It changed her life and gave her the chance for a much better life altogether.”

Pathfinders is also offered One Hope United’s Aurora Early Learning Center and Joliet Early Learning Center, and could expand to more, which Tara would be happy to see. “This is the first program I’ve been in where the kids are so little, and it’s great,” she says. “The earlier you help them, the better off they’ll be.”

*Name has been changed.

Florida Case Manager Named Reunification Hero!

Victor Sims, Case Manager Lead in Florida, was recognized as a Reunification Hero by the American Bar Association Children and Law.

Sims was nominated by one of his clients who gave him credit with her reunification with her children. She recalled how “he brought my kids home when no one knew a way to make it happen” and said that “he has continually been a champion for change.”

His experience in the child welfare system began while spending the first 11 years of his life in foster care. Fortunately, Sims was adopted into a loving family and his experience in foster care is what motivated him to pursue a career as a case manager at One Hope United in Florida. While reunification was not possible for him and his parents, today Sims makes reunification his priority with every family that he serves.

He prioritizes strengthening  families’ so children can return home safely as soon as possible. Sims strives to understand the root causes of the parents’ problems so that they overcome their barriers to success. He does an excellent job of using innovative techniques that will help families continually succeed after their case has ended.

Read Full Article Here on America Bar Association

Discover more #NationalReunificationMonth stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Florida Couple Adopts Two Kids Into Their Forever Family

Executive Pastor Chad Dillon Was Certain He Didn’t Want To Become A Foster Parent. His Wife Adriane Was Equally Sure She Did.

After seven years of trying to have a biological child, the Dillon’s longed for a family and had always had a desire to adopt—being able to provide a child with a forever family. But they weren’t completely in agreement about fostering children. In early 2014, they enrolled in PRIDE classes. 

The Dillon’s took the classes with another couple, their best friends, and since PRIDE covers both adoption and fostering in their county, participants could choose to do either, or both. During the classes, the couple had heard horrific stories about children in their community being abused and neglected, in which Chad came to realize that his hesitancy to foster was nothing short of selfishness where the attention was on him and not on the children who need and deserve to be loved unconditionally. His attitude had completely changed and he told his wife,

“We will foster as long as we can agree on one thing—to put the best interest of every child that comes into our care above our own and the moment that we cannot do that, we get out so that we are never a part of the problem.”

So, after this realization, he and his wife without hesitation continued their classes and were ready to enter the world of fostering where they were ready to embrace every child that came their way with love and as their own. They received their license on November 4, 2014. To their shock, they received a call on the same day about a seven-day-old baby girl who needed a foster home. They said yes, and on November 6, 2014, they welcomed Hilary Rose into their loving arms, and adding her older brother Christopher into their home in June of 2016. 

The Dillon’s have fostered two other children to-date as well—but they knew they wanted to do more for parents like them. In January 2016, Chad assisted in the launch of a brand new foster and adoptive children’s association in their county and was quickly introduced to OHU. They immediately felt welcomed by the staff, especially the Executive Director for their county—Eva Horner. Chad and Eva have had several discussions about ways to improve the system of care in Florida, especially their county. In April of 2014, Chad was voted in as the President of the Osceola Foster and Adoptive Children’s Association. To date, they have seen over 50 people attend and recently have had 17 foster and/or adoptive families become official members. The monthly association meetings are hosted at their church—Freedom Life Church. 

As President, Chad has addressed issues of foster care parent retention, co-parenting, creating stronger relationships among licensing agencies, the Department of Children and Families, and foster/adoptive parents, as well as changing the reputation and perception of the foster care system. “People ultimately fear the unknown,” says Chad, “But we believe the work we’re doing in Osceola County can spread throughout the state of Florida and change people’s hearts and minds about child welfare.” “The lack of awareness is one of the biggest issues we face. People simply need to see the need and be given the opportunity to meet it, but it has to be presented in a positive way and must come from a heart of compassion because people gravitate towards passion.” He strives to motivate and encourage anyone who involves themselves in the child welfare system to have and keep the right heart motive, where the focus is on making sure that every decision is about the child’s best interest and never the adult’s (whether foster parent, bio-parent, bio-relative, agency worker, adoptive parent, etc.). 

Chad lost his own father on November 6, 2002, exactly 22 years to the day that he and his wife welcomed their first foster child (who became their forever daughter) into their home. Now that day takes on a whole new meaning. Another significant day in the Dillon’s life? September 12, 2016, the day Hilary Rose and Christopher David were officially adopted into their forever.

One Hope United Names Lake Villa Campus for Ermit L. Finch

ABOVE Ermit L. Finch (right) is joined by his wife, Jonni Miklos (left), and One Hope United Board Chair Theresa A. Dear (center) at the ceremony to dedicate the Lake Villa campus in his name.

Finch lived on campus from 1948 to ’51 and became first former client to serve on One Hope United’s Board.

One Hope United has named its Lake Villa, Ill., campus after a former resident and current board member Ermit L. Finch. The Board of Directors hosted a ceremony to dedicate the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa on Friday, April 26, attended by the Board, staff of the campus, friends and family of Finch, and Lake Villa’s Mayor James McDonald.

Read about the ceremony and Finch’s life in the Lake County News-Sun.

Finch took up residence at One Hope United campus (then Central Baptist Children’s Home) in 1948, following a harrowing childhood in Arkansas. (Watch The Impact of Ermit Finch video below.)

Finch was born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1934 to a furniture salesman and homemaker. Both parents contracted tuberculosis in the 1940s and went to sanatoriums, after which he saw his father once a week and communicated with his mother, who was sent to New Mexico, only by letter. Her death in 1945 precipitated his father’s death less than 30 days later.

After a short time living and working on his uncle’s farm, where Finch acquired the nickname “Cotton”—the farm’s signature crop—for his white hair, Finch transferred to an Arkansas orphanage where the conditions were difficult and the discipline severe. Finch, small for his age, was bullied, and boys were frequently whipped and denied meals.

A change in leadership to Dr. Louis B. Snider vastly improved Finch’s quality of life, and Finch eventually came with Snider’s family to Lake Villa, Ill., when Snider took a position at what is today One Hope United. Finch has fond memories of life on campus, which included group meals, singing, riding horses, and tending to chickens. “The expansiveness of this place, and the lake—it was paradise,” he recalls. “This was a growth time. It felt good. You liked yourself. Somebody else liked you.”

“Ermit personifies One Hope United’s vision: For every child and family, a life without limits,” said President and CEO Charles A. Montorio-Archer. “His story speaks to the potential in each of us to overcome hardship and trauma when we have the right support. I’m thrilled to recognize him with the dedication of the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa.”

The support Finch received at One Hope United led Finch to academic and personal success. While on campus, he learned to read and graduated from Antioch High School, where he played tuba in the marching band. He went on to attend the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, returning to the campus in the summers to live and work. He would raise his own family and lead a successful business career in heating, air conditioning and residential construction.

“Ermit’s undefeatable, unbreakable, and unstoppable spirit has been an unending source of inspiration at One Hope United,” said Board Chair Theresa A. Dear.

In 2003, Finch revisited the campus and resumed his connection to the place where he spent the happiest years of his childhood. He joined the Board of Directors of One Hope United in 2004, the first former resident to do so.

“It was a blessing to be exposed and to have the opportunity” to live and thrive on the campus, Finch said at the ceremony. “I’m wonderfully honored.”

One Hope United has operated the Ermit L. Finch campus since 1948. Today it is home to the CARE Residential Program, which serves as many as 50 young boys and teenagers between the ages of 9 to 18 years old who don’t have a biological or foster family to live with. The campus also includes a Therapeutic Day School, attended by young men from the campus and the surrounding communities.

Serving and Supporting Transgender Youth at One Hope United

When the opportunity to serve transgender youth through One Hope United’s Centralia residential programs arose, director Melissa Webster thought to herself, “We can do that!”

According to the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence, 57 percent of trans youth report experiencing family rejection, and trans youth are disproportionately represented in child welfare settings. If they feel unsafe in their placement, they may choose instead to live on the streets—20 percent of homeless youth identify as trans.

Melissa knew that her facilities, which include private rooms and locking doors, as well as her team’s approach of doing what’s best for the youth in their care, would make One Hope United a good fit for trans youth. “There’s no judgment here,” she said. “Wherever you are today, we’re going to meet you there.”

That’s what the team tried to convey to Taylor*, 15, when he visited the campus to consider living there (he was assigned a female sex at birth and now identifies as male). Home supervisor Greg Phoenix began by asking Taylor what he needed from the program. “He really just wanted our support and to be accepted for who he was, and our willingness to do that was probably the largest deciding factor for him choosing us,” Greg said.

Taylor’s arrival on campus took some adjustment for some of the other boys, but Greg says that period was short and that Taylor now gets along with all the boys in the home. “They see him as one of their own. They watch TV together, play games together—he’s fully accepted.”

The staff at One Hope United have supported Taylor by helping him when he wanted to travel to the pride parade in Springfield, Illinois, and to an LGBTQ support group in St. Louis, Missouri. Taylor also holds a leadership role on DCFS’s youth advisory board and is working with two other LGBTQ youth on campus to start a support group at One Hope United. Now, Taylor is poised to transition to foster care.

Working with Taylor, one of the first openly trans youth at One Hope United, has been “enriching,” says therapist Howard Coon.

“He knew from a very young age that he wasn’t born in the right body. He can say, ‘I know this is who I want to be,’ and it’s nice to see youth who can put that kind of passion into their treatment, their personal lives, and their goals,” Howard said. “We hope to help Taylor achieve some of those things before he moves on to his next placement.”

This story is from our 2017 Annual Report.

*Name has been changed.

Centralia Basketball ‘Court of Hope’ Dedicated in Honor of Sprehe Family

When you drive into Centralia, Illinois, you’re greeted by a sign welcoming you to the “Home of the Winningest H.S. Basketball Team in the Nation.”

One of the next things you see is One Hope United’s Centralia campus, with its newly restored basketball court.

One Hope United’s board of directors raised funds to renovate the court – which serves as the heart of the campus and a gathering and recreation space for youth – and dedicated it as the Forrest D. and June L. Sprehe Court of Hope.

Forrest Sprehe was a Centralia resident and longtime board member of One Hope United’s downstate region. He and his wife, June, were well known for their volunteerism and community support throughout the area.

“I know Dad was involved in a lot of organizations, from the school board to his industry organizations, but One Hope United was closest to his and Mom’s heart,” said their son, Greg Sprehe, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a board member, most recently as board chair.

“It was all about family for them,” Greg added. “Extending the resources they had – particularly the time Dad spent working with the organization – was, I know he would say, the most important work he ever did.”

Misty Sprehe Wright and Greg Sprehe

In addition to Greg’s service on the board, he and his wife, Victoria, frequently spend time on the Centralia campus, particularly around the holiday season, when they help the youth prepare dishes and decorate for the annual holiday party.

Their dedication to service “doesn’t happen by accident; that’s a family value,” said Melissa Webster, One Hope United’s director of programs in Centralia. “And we know that that’s a generational value.”

Both Greg and his sister, Misty Sprehe Wright, played in Centralia High School’s famed basketball program, so for them, the court was a fitting tribute to their parents.

“These are our roots,” said Misty, who became Centralia’s first female to play basketball in grade school – playing on the boys team – and went on to become a PE teacher and coach. Addressing the Centralia campus youth at the court dedication, she said, “We have great memories, and we hope all you residents – you amazing, wonderful kids – enjoy basketball and enjoy these facilities as much as we have.”

The October 4, 2017, dedication was attended by the Sprehe family and friends, Centralia community members, youth living on the Centralia campus, and One Hope United staff from Centralia and beyond. The youth wasted no time making use of the basketball court, inaugurating it with a tournament immediately following the program.

“With the Sprehe family, it’s always been about the focus on kids and families and helping them reach their greatest potential,” said Scott Humphrey, President and CEO of One Hope United. “In my book, there’s nobody that embodies our vision about ‘life without limits’ better than the Sprehe family.”

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