Happy New Year 2021!
I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and are as happy as I am to turn the page on 2020 and have a fresh start. We are excited to kick off 2021 with a bright outlook for the year ahead. We are closing our 29th Annual Christmas Home Tour on January 5 so you get in your final chance to view beautifully decorated homes and take another look at an amazing array of “how to” video demonstrations. We want to thank our homeowners who went the extra mile this year doing a fabulous job decorating and allowing us to be in their homes with our video crew. Shout outs to all our wonderful interior designers who helped many of the homeowners and who created and donated 19 fabulous wreaths for our Wreath Raffle – and congratulations to the lucky winners of these wreaths. Thank you to all our many sponsors and donors who stood with us in this most challenging year by continuing to sponsor, purchase tickets to the tour and the wreath raffle and bid on party packages for brunches, lunches, dinners and happy hours. Many thanks to our generous donors who gave so generously to our End Of Year Campaign by making a cash donation, joining our Voices For Children CIRCLE Sustainable Giving Program, or Naming a Room in our new building. As we have shared with you over the years, our Christmas Home Tour was our first and is our longest-running fundraiser and has literally “kept the lights on” and allowed us to sustain our services to 18,000 children over these years. Our deepest gratitude goes out to you!
2021 will be a milestone in our history. It marks the 30th Anniversary of Child Advocates of Fort Bend. It was in 1991 when a handful of visionary volunteers got together with a plan to provide court advocacy to children in foster care. They started our CASA Program which has operated ever since and consistently provides 100% of children in foster care with a Court Appointed Special Advocate to advocate for the best interests of these children and ensure that their voices are heard. We later added our Children’s Advocacy Center to provide forensic interviews, therapy, case management and medical referrals to children who have been sexually or severely physically abused. This Multi-Disciplinary Team collaborates with partners in CPS, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and County Attorney’s Office who are on site at our building to ensure that no child falls through the cracks. We have worked hard to create a best practice model for Fort Bend County children and families where healing and justice can be served.
We are excited to celebrate 30 Years of Service to Children throughout the year. We thank all the thousands of dedicated volunteers, generous donors, committed staff, and visionary boards of directors over the past three decades who have made this possible. The children of Fort Bend County have benefited in countless ways because of your kindness.
For the Children’s Sake,
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
Christmas Blessings for the Children
There is nothing better than seeing a child’s eyes light up on Christmas morning. Each December, three ladies and their respective companies, come together to ensure that each child served by Child Advocates of Fort Bend has that twinkle in their eyes.
Suzanne Slavin, Fidelity National Title, Mary Titel, Hometrust Mortgage and Tammy McCall of Johnson Development coordinated the 3rd Annual Christmas Extravaganza Toy Drive, this year making it a Toy Drive-Thru. Santa and Mrs. Claus along with Rudolph and multiple Elves helped collect hundreds of toys that will bring cheer to so many children this Christmas. Special thanks to these ladies for their dedication to our mission and the work we do. Their network of colleagues in the real estate realm has been and continues to be so very generous. Additionally, we want to thank the numerous volunteers that helped with the event – whether collecting toys in their offices or being onsite to help with event logistics – we are grateful for you all! Special thanks to:
Darrel Casey, Amvet Inspections
Kirsten Pyykola, Amvet Inspections
Kirsten Blanco, Amvet Inspections
Angie Blacklock, Rockland Insurance
Stacie Thieheimer, Home Warranty of America
Allen Titel, Blue Sprig Pediatrics
Cathy Connors, Send Out Cards
Melissa Guerra, Newmark Homes
Andrew Turco, Newmark Homes
Andrea Duarte, Perry Homes
Kathy Edwards, Perry Homes
Lawerence Pereau, Perry Homes
Avika Boonyoo, Perry Homes
Samantha Piper, Highland Homes
Gena Ricklefsen, Highland Homes
Dawn Spiccia, Hometrust Mortgage
Caroline Wijangco, Hometrust Mortgage
Nicole Goulet, Fidelity National Title
Merita O’Krinsky, Fidelity National Title
And Chance McCall – the cutest “puppy elf” ever!
Thank You Fort Bend Junior Service League!
The Fort Bend Junior Service League recently presented us with a check for proceeds from their Virtual Sugar Plum Marketplace. We are so honored to have their support once again. We are grateful to be one of their placements – some of these generous ladies serve as CASA Advocates and help in our Children’s Advocacy Center and they regularly help us with events. We truly appreciate their support!
In this season of giving, we are extremely grateful! So many have given generously to our agency and the children we serve! This is just a small sampling of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us:
A HUGE Thank You to These Very Generous Donors!
We could not possibly do the work that we do without the incredible support of the Fort Bend Community. We are fortunate to live here and be among people who are truly generous and believe in the power of giving back to others. We would like to extend a GIANT thank you to everyone who has supported us this holiday season including Auberge Sugar Land and Memory Care, Ranjeet Juneja & Group, Deann McAdoo tennis group, FM Murphy Production Controls, Ranji Law Group, Emma Ward & family, Desmond Wright and the generous folks shown above and identified below. Clockwise from top left are:
(1) Megan, Harper, and Hazel Phillips who donated stuffed animals for the children served in our CAC; (2) Fort Bend ISD Police for their donation of stuffed animals for our CAC; (3) Our wonderful partners in the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office for their generous donation of stuffed animals for our CAC; (4) Eric Helfman and Lisa Rios from Helfman Ford who stuffed our training room full of bikes and toys; (5) Volunteer Maria Sonnen and her neighbors who adopted 4 CAC families for the holidays and brought them bikes and gifts and (6) Zoe and Sky Phan who donated tons of socks for the children we serve. In addition to those shown here, we have received many generous toy donations.
We are grateful and humbled by your generosity! May you be as blessed this holiday season as the children you have blessed.
Fulshear Racing Swim Team 2nd Annual Blanket Drive
Special thanks to Aimee Schmidt from the Fulshear Racing Swim Team for organizing the 2nd annual blanket and stuffed animal drive. They collected 61 blankets or stuffed animals to support Child Advocates of Fort Bend. Board member Rhonda Kuykendall was present to collect the donation and thank the team for their generosity.
Ecolab Toy Donation
Thank you to our wonderful friends at Ecolab and Board Member Kurt Kirchof. Kurt and his team at Ecolab donate to us every year and this year was no exception. Kurt stopped by recently with their donation of toys. Thank you so much for your continued support!
Thank You Del Webb Sweetgrass Needlecrafters!
The 55 members of this group get together weekly on Tuesday afternoons and make blankets, or they did prior to COVID. The restrictions moved them into their homes but did not slow them down. They make more than 500 blankets every year for our agency. These generous and industrious folks donated 26 handmade blankets in December alone! Every child who comes through our Children’s Advocacy Center for an interview or for other services is allowed to select a blanket that they can take home with them.
Not only does The George Foundation support us financially, but employees of The George Foundation stopped by recently with more than 13 stuffed animals for the children served by our CAC. Pictured (L to R) are: CAC volunteer Doug Earle, Lindsey Silhavy from The George Foundation, CAFB Volunteer Coordinator Jennifer Brown, and CAC volunteer Charles McGuire.
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)
The Children’s Advocacy Center would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our frontline partners who worked so hard in 2020 to ensure that abused children were not another casualty of the pandemic. Children’s Protective Services caseworkers, child abuse detectives, the District Attorney’s Office and the CAC staff and volunteers have continued to serve children without interruption. Unfortunately, child abuse did not take a break and, in fact, so many more children were left vulnerable due to the isolation and lack of safe people to tell. Everyone was able to balance health safety concerns with the concerns for the safety of the children who need them. Thank you also to all of the donors who kept us supplied with masks, sanitizer and other essential safety items. We appreciate everyone’s commitment to the children we serve.
If you haven’t read it yet, Therapist Kandece Money’s December Therapist’s Corner blog post addresses trauma and the holidays but the information is helpful, regardless of the time of year. Read her post here https://www.cafb.org/therapists-corner-trauma-and-the-holidays/.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) and Community Engagement
Our CASA Advocates continue the difficult work of advocating for the needs of the children. Pandemic or not, they have been working tirelessly toward the best outcomes for children and we really appreciate their hard work. Advocate Maria Scott did such an incredible job testifying in court recently that she impressed both the CPS Supervisor and the County Attorney. In fact, the CPS Supervisor sent a text to CASA Program Director Metoyer Martin during the testimony stating “Maria Scott needs to teach every CASA the method of testimony! She is amazing! So calm, gathered, and so matter of fact.” The County Attorney emailed Maria the following day telling her she did a great job testifying. When asked what she did to prepare for trial, Maria gave props to Advocacy Specialist April Shaver for guiding her through the process. April had her prepare by watching other trials, staffing with her regularly, and asking the County Attorney’s office for questions that may be asked.
In addition to testifying our teams have been busy celebrating the hard work of our children and volunteers. The celebrations started in early December as our NEST team hosted a drive-in movie at CAFB in December to honor children for their academic achievements. One of the five children whose families participated was so excited that he wanted to take a picture so he would never forget his experience that night and one of the foster parents also shared her appreciation of the event with the Judge during the Wednesday court docket! A week later, we held a ZOOM celebration for 16 volunteers whose cases recently closed. Volunteers received “porch packages” as an appreciation gift and really enjoyed their virtual time together.
Community Outreach Coordinator Lindsey Castellanos not only organized our second annual Elf party for volunteers and our families, but she spoke to 100 teachers and administrators at FBISD’s Austin High School. She had an overwhelming response to the presentation and has been asked to host another training in January. Stay tuned to hear more about that one this month.
Finally, if you see CASA team members Renee Lukefahr and Leroy Hodge, please make sure to congratulate them. We did – with a drive by celebration in our building on December 16. Renee received her Bachelor’s in Psychology recently and Leroy received his Master’s in Divinity. Well done – both of you!
During the month of November, we hosted a virtual Spirit of Giving Event for our N.E.S.T. and WINGS youth. Despite not being able to come together in person, we still wanted to provide our youth with a meaningful opportunity to give back to the community and make a difference. Our youth were invited to decorate holiday greeting cards for the clients of Catholic Charities. We were joyfully overwhelmed with how many of our youth participated and mailed greeting cards to us. In this season of thankfulness, we are so thankful for the each of the youth that we work with who, despite everything they are going through, took the time to help spread some love and joy to those in need in our community. As we enter the new year, we look forward to continuing to help grow big hearts in our youth who remind us every day what really matters!
LAT Champions NEEDED!
Call to Action!
This legislative session is heating up with important legislation related to our state’s most vulnerable youth. The Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT) needs your help in letting our representatives know which bills CASA has identified as being the most impactful for children in foster care.
By becoming a LAT Champion, you will receive notifications when bills are in critical stages with a request for you to help. The LAT will send you a Bill Alert with a sample letter you can copy and forward to your Representative or Senator within 24 hours. You may research the issue and write your own email also. Receiving letters from constituents lets our elected officials know which issues are important to us and which bills, out of many, will best serve our youth. The burden is not cumbersome. This past legislative session there were 14 Bill Alerts. To become a LAT Champion of Fort Bend, contact Rhonda Kuykendall, Chairwoman of Child Advocates of Fort Bend LAT.
Contact Rhonda Kuykendall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Like LAT Champions of Fort Bend on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/latchampions
Find out who is your Representative and Senator: https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home
Is There Someone You Would Like To Honor?
We all have friends, family and people in our lives who do a lot for others. You can let them know that you appreciate them by recognizing them with a birthday, anniversary, or holiday donation in their honor. Send us their name, address, and a note about why you are honoring them (special occasion, because they give so much to others, etc.), along with a donation. We will send them an acknowledgement letter letting them know that you donated on their behalf.
Virtual Christmas Home Tour
Runs through January 4
Home Tours, Demonstrations and Much More. . .
Today is your LAST CHANCE to view 6 gorgeously decorated homes, to see unique holiday collections, learn how to decorate and entertain like a professional with 23 demonstration videos and reminisce with videos and photos from Christmas Home Tours over the years right from the comfort of your home.
Mark your calendars!
April 22, 2021 VIRTUAL Volunteer Appreciation
6pm – 7pm
Details coming soon. . .