In the early 1990’s, Community Leaders realized that bureaucracy moves slowly. There was clearly a need to respond quickly to crisis situations, while young people’s problems reach crisis-level rapidly. There was also a need to keep child-centered projects as non-political as possible. Citizens in the private sector were often ready to step up with financial support, but they did not want to wait on a budget cycle or a public hearing or other wheels of public business to roll around. The Children’s Services Council, a child advocacy group established by the Board of Country Commisioners in December 1990, needed a way to speed up the acquisition of donations (cash or in-kind), account for them and disburse them without being bogged down in “red tape”. The answer was the incorporation of a 501 -(c) 3 foundation that would manage gifts from private citizens and allow those gifts to be federal tax deductions for the donors, while meeting these critical needs in the community. Hence the Champion for Children Foundation was established.
With this mechanism in place, the Champion for Children Foundation, the Children’s Services Council and local government grew to embrace the concept of a “Public-Private Partnership” that could make good things happen fast. Its first, and very successful, effort was the construction of the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Foundation raised thousands of dollars from Highlands County citizens and businesses. It sought donations of services, labor and materials. The public literally “bought into” the project and County Commission added some money from the Capital Improvement Fund and agreed to build the parking lot with county labor and equipment.
When the Center opened in 1998, it was completely paid for and soon became fully accredited by the National Children’s Alliance.
Since inception, the Foundation has underwritten many remarkable projects. It continues to operate with faith in the “Public-Private Partnership”, a way of combining public monies with private gifts. The Foundation Board of Directors acknowledges and appreciates the generosity of the people in Highlands County. They expect to continue making things happen to improve the lives of children and young people.
Champion For Children Foundation Board Of Directors
- Nancy Hensley, Chairman
- Pat Leidel, Vice-Chairman
- Kevin J. Roberts, Chief Exective Officer
- Mark Cox, C.P.A.
- Rocio French
- Jill Jernigan, R.N.
- Meredith A. Keiber
- Joy Salinder
- Nicholas Schommer, J.D.
- Pete Zeegers
- Doris Gentry Hawthorne, Honorary
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