News

  • Jul 26 2019

    The Myers Home Team, Keller Williams launches their 4th Annual Giveback Campaign.

    by Bridget Roberston


    Team leader and Realtor Jordan Myers and associates Gary Burden and Bill Yingling are donating 100% of the commission from the sale of a home to a Tampa Bay area non-profit. Public voting will determine the recipient of this year’s donation.

    PALM HARBOR, FL (July 19, 2019)— Exemplifying the core values of the largest real estate franchise in the world, the Keller Williams Myers Home Team Market Center is launching the 4th Annual Giveback
    Campaign, which will award a local non-profit with 100% of the commission from the sale of a home. Local Non-Profits will be competing for the donation through a voting poll that is open to the general public.

    “We believe in supporting the community where we live and work,” said Jordan Myers, team leader of Keller Williams Myers Home Team. “It’s our way of saying thanks to our friends, neighbors and clients.” 

    Voting is open from August 1-21, 2019. You may vote up to once a day, for your favorite organizations. Voting links can be found on the Myers Home Team Website at https://www.themyershometeam.com/

    Last year’s recipient was Tarpon Springs Leadership Conservatory for the Arts, they received $9,000 from team leader Jordan Myers. The donation was used to send the Highschool band to a National competition. This year’s donation amount will be determined at the close of the home.

    Along with the online voting poll, two events will be held in support of the campaign to bring awareness to the local non-profits. An open house will take place August 10, 2019 at 6815 Twelve Oaks Blvd., Tampa, FL
    33634, and a Mix and Mingle event on August 20, 2019. Location TBD. The Media and participating Non-Profits are encouraged to attend both events.

    To learn more about The Myers Home Team Keller Williams and their Annual Giveback Campaign, call Tiffany Butts, Marketing Director at (727) 222-3113.
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  • Jun 14 2019

    Tampa Tarpons’ philanthropic week provides inspiring moments of joy

    by Ernest Hooper




    TAMPA — A 13-year-old, his red T-shirt perfectly matching his exuberance, threw out the first pitch.

    Other kids trotted out to the field with the players, standing as the national anthem played. Before the game started, they clutched freshly-autographed baseballs, smiled at guys just a few years older than them.

    It’s another day at the baseball game. Steinbrenner Field welcomed youth to get a taste of the professional baseball life their minor leaguers enjoy every day, but the moments of joy the Class A Tampa Tarpons provided for the Joshua House kids hold greater meaning than the typical player-kid interaction.

    Consider how these youths arrived at Joshua House, a safe haven for abused kids in suburban Tampa. The typical child enters the facility after bouncing from one foster home to another, sometimes as many as 20 or 30 homes.

    They show up with all their belongings packed in a garbage bag, and they don’t own a lot. So much has been given to them – love, promises, stability – only to be taken away. Yet they do arrive with plenty to unpack: emotional upheaval from years of dysfunction, nightmarish neglect and unimaginable stories.

    “They come from families in crisis,” said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of Joshua House Foundation. “Then they end up in foster care and their lives become restrictive to keep them safe.”

    At the field, however, the restraints give way to fun. They toy with Blue, the Tarpons mascot, eat hotdogs and chase foul balls. Grundel said some had never attended a game, never stood for the national anthem, never seen someone throw out an honorary first pitch.

    “That’s why it’s so necessary for them to have these life-enriching experiences,” Grundel said. “Having a little joy, getting a chance to be carefree kids is part of their stabilization.”

    This is the mission of the Tarpons’ philanthropic week of giving dubbed Helping Others Persevere and Excel. They delivered on the HOPE acronym for Joshua House and four other nonprofits this week, wrapping up the effort on Thursday night.

    Every New York Yankees affiliate and the major league club craft an outreach week that allows players to touch lives and connect with the community. The Yankees initiated the program in 2009, and its affiliates adopted the approach in 2012.

    Of course, we expect such efforts from the athletes at the sport’s highest level. Many deliver, creating their own foundations and contributing to worthy causes. Sometimes, Yankees on rehab assignments with the Tarpons like Didi Gregorious volunteer to visit kids at Tampa General.

    Yet in some ways it’s more impressive to see minor leaguers reaching out to kids in Tampa. Who would blame the Tarpons’ Glenn Otto, a 23-year-old righthander from Spring, Texas, if he chose to focus more on developing his pitches, outdueling other aspiring stars and pursuing his big-league dreams. Otto, however, not only helped welcome the Joshua House kids to Steinbrenner Field, he joined teammates in visiting with them at the residential facility.

    “This was my first HOPE week with the Tarpons, and it’s something I’ll always remember,” Otto said. “In a career where so many other people sacrifice so much to help us fulfill our dream, it was nice to be able to give back and show the kids at Joshua House the love and generosity they deserve.”

    Tampa Tarpons pitcher Shawn Semple plays with one of the children at Joshua House. Photo courtesy of Tampa Tarpons.

    It went that way all week. On Sunday, they welcomed unaccompanied youth from Starting Right, Now. On Monday, players volunteered at Trinity Café. On Tuesday, they spent time with the Joshua House kids and on Wednesday and Thursday, the Tarpons granted tours respectively to staff and volunteers from Gracepoint and Voices For Children.

    In the process, the Tarpons not only hope to build a sense of goodwill among its players, but inspire fans to engage in meaningful ways.

    “The one thing everyone has to give is time,” Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal said in a prepared statement. “If we all took a moment to help others, our world would be such a wonderful place.”

    Each of the nonprofits that took part in the Tarpons’ HOPE Week received a monetary donation, but the investment it made in kids, in volunteers and in the makeup of the participating players will likely lead to a greater dividend.

     “Being around those kids and hearing them laugh and seeing them smile was definitely refreshing,” Otto said. “I look forward to my next opportunity to make an impact in the community.”

    At least for one day, Otto and the Tarpons gave the kids of Joshua House something else to pack in that garbage bag: pleasant memories.

    That’s all I’m saying.

    Contact Ernest Hooper at ehooper@tampabay.com. Follow @hoop4you.


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  • Jun 13 2018

    Lacey Smith and The Fashion Movement - True Community

    by Bio Article By Angel Beth

    You know that expression, accessories make the outfit? Well it’s true. Take a plain black outfit and dress it up with a gorgeous necklace and stunning earrings, and you take your look to a completely new level. Go from pretty to glamorous with just the right accent piece. Lacey B. Smith, a fashion guru and founder of “The Fashion Movement”, appreciates the need for such details. His company started Haute Accessory Week in 2011, an annual event to bring designers accessory pieces to the public and showcase them in a runway event.

    The event hosted by “The Fashion Movement” at the Galleria at USF, Tampa Florida, in February 2018, and was a huge hit. Supporters enjoyed shopping both before and after at the many vendor booths set up outside the event in a Boutique format. The show itself was exhilarating as gorgeous men and women glided down the runway with necklaces, earrings, bracelets, handbags and at one point carrying gorgeous painted canvases that all popped off their black attire.

     Lacey felt that offering a platform to accessory designers and artists bridged a gap in the industry and we agree. This year was the 7th showing of Haute Accessory Week, and with a unique twist they incorporated live presentations which offered an interactive and edgy experience for the audience. With on stage body painting and live canvas painting, the audience was able to see the creative process from start to finish.

    Lacey B. Smith is a mastermind. His mother was a seamstress and blossomed a passion for fashion at a very young age. He started volunteering in fashion and found this love only grew. He grew up in Jamaica and moved to the States in his teens; then he began exploring his passion. Even when life took him towards a path in Finance, he always made his way back to the fashion industry. And that is how his company “The Fashion Movement” was born, from a magnetic drive pulling him always back to this innate passion.

    Events like the Haute Accessory Week were born out of “The Fashion Movement”. The idea of creating platforms for designers to market their creations continued to grow. Designers flocked towards his classy and prodigious events. Word of mouth spread, as bios and samples of work were sent to “The Fashion Movement” with hopes of gaining entry into one of their shows. When a show reached capacity of required Designers, Designers set up as vendors alongside the event, still allowing their creations to be seen and sold.

     Lacey also has a huge heart for community. Not only in bringing to stage artistic works but also for raising funds to support local charities. The Fashion Movement created “Bowties & Clutches®” an annual Gala to raise funds for Joshua House, a safe haven for abused, abandoned, and neglected children. “Bowties & Clutches®” has grown to also include an annual Charity Golf Classic also benefiting Joshua House.

    Lacey and his team at The Fashion Movement never stop creating innovative ways to produce and market fashion events allowing the public access to superior products. He enjoys promoting brands and helping to establish them in our fashion community. His goal is, with the right marketing, to imprint the artistic world onto each of us, and give us access to beautiful and fashionable works of art. With “The Fashion Movement”, he has changed Tampa Bay by continuously bringing garment & accessory designers, fashion stylists, and creative visionaries to our door with top quality events that cannot be compared. With such elegant and respected events, we look forward to Lacey B. Smith and “The Fashion Movement’s” next presentation.

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  • Apr 19 2018

    "Sweet Dreams" donation

    by Bridget Roberston



    In April, the Tampa team of BBVA Compass attended the annual Child Abuse Awareness Luncheon to benefit Joshua House. One team member, RSS Sammi Marlis-Ronshausen, supports Joshua House in a very special way. She makes pillowcases for the children who live at the Joshua House. No two are alike. Each one is as unique as the children they are given to. Sammi makes 48 pillowcases each year and has been doing this for the last 5 years.  She donates them for the children to keep. Each one represents a child’s precious life and the new hope they have.

    Sammi also makes these pillowcases to another charity called Case for Smiles. She makes and donates an average of 65 to 80 pillowcases each year that are distributed to local children’s hospitals. These organizations do not have a budget to purchase supplies so Sammi donates her time, talents, and treasures with a happy heart. Sammi is making a difference in the lives of the children of her community.

    READ MORE
  • Sep 09 2017

    Storms force tough calls for group homes

    by Christopher O’Donnell - Times Staff Writer

    Foster children evacuated from South Florida join those in Lutz. Such moves have many factors.

    LUTZ - Almost 40 Hillsborough foster children are expected to ride out Hurricane Irma at Joshua House, a group foster home in Lutz.

    On Friday, they were joined by another 14 foster kids, five staffers, three family members, a dog and two cats - evacuees from another foster home in Brevard County.

    As Hurricane Irma moves closer to a direct strike on Florida, group foster homes across the state are weighing whether they should ride out the storm or evacuate. For officials who have to make that decision, it's a complex calculation.

    Children's Home Society of Florida, which runs 10 group homes, has already evacuated foster homes in Miami and Brevard counties.

    'You're dealing with kids who have already been through so much … and then have this unexpected hurricane.'

    ElizaMcCall-Horne, Children's Home Society of Florida executive director With Miami seemingly in the cross hairs of Irma, there was no choice but to evacuate residents of the group home there. Children and staffers were relocated to a group home in Palm Beach County that is farther inland.

    It was a tougher call to evacuate its Brevard group home, which is farther north from where Irma is anticipated to make landfall but is on low-lying land and close to the coast.

    It is not yet known if any more group homes will have to be evacuated.

    'We do a lot of communication across the state, assessing and evaluating the weather,' said Children's Home Society executive director Eliza McCall-Horne. 'We are looking at other areas and watching the storms.' The weather is not the only factor the group has to consider. Finding accommodations for children and staff members is a challenge in a state where the foster care system is already overburdened. There is also concern that evacuating will create more anxiety for children already affected by child abuse, neglect or from being removed from their parents.

    'You're dealing with kids who have already been through so much trauma and grief and loss and then have this unexpected hurricane and them not understanding what is happening,' McCall-Horne said. 'We have to stay attuned to their needs.' The majority of children in foster care stay with foster parents or relatives. This week, judges in most child welfare circuits issued temporary orders allowing foster parents to take children out of state if they are evacuating.

    About 27 foster children are likely to stay throughout Irma at the Lake Magdalene group foster home in Carrollwood, Hillsborough County officials said.

    Staffers at Joshua House began preparing for storms months ago after forecasters predicted a busy hurricane season, said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of the Joshua House Foundation. As part of their licensing requirements, group homes must submit a comprehensive disaster plan to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

    The 11-acre campus, which houses about 36 children, was built with its own generators and a 2,500 gallon water reserve tank.

    This past week, the Joshua House staff stocked up with additional food and 35 cases of water to ride out the storm. But they have also filled vehicles with gas in case they have to flee.

    Most of the Brevard evacuees who arrived Friday will be housed in the Publix House, a 12bed building that was recently renovated. Airbeds also are being provided.

    The focus for the staff has been to keep children calm and not let anxiety build. Therapists are available for children who feel stressed.

    'Sometimes it's best to keep the TVs off and not let the barrage from the news keep hitting them,' Grundel said.

    Contact Christopher O’Donnell at codonnell @ tampabay. com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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  • Aug 06 2016

    More kids pulled from homes in Hillsborough than anywhere else in Florida

    by Christopher O’Donnell - Times Staff Writer

    The children are taken from their homes because parents fight or use drugs, or because of child abuse, neglect and mental illness. Others are given away by parents who admit defeat at handling teenagers.

    These sad tales occur more in Hillsborough County than anywhere else in Florida.

    In four of the past six years, the county has led the state in the number of children plucked from their parents or guardians.

    That peaked in the 2016 fiscal year when investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office removed 1,672 children, the highest number in more than 10 years. That’s almost 450 more than Miami-Dade County, home to roughly 1.3 million more people than Hillsborough.

    For some, the numbers suggest that the county at times removes children unnecessarily. Others speculate that Hillsborough’s large low-income population, scattered over urban and rural areas, makes it difficult to help with social services.

    Whatever the reason, the result is an overburdened child welfare system.

    Almost 40 children ended up sleeping in offices and other make-do accommodations over a three-month period this spring and summer because state contractor Eckerd Kids could not place them in foster homes.

    And only 55 percent of the roughly 3,300 children in the state’s care in Hillsborough are assigned a guardian ad litem because there simply aren’t enough volunteers. Elsewhere in Florida, 80 percent of children in care are assigned a guardian.

    That can often mean Hillsborough children wait longer for counseling or medication, said Tabitha Lambert, circuit director for the 13th Circuit guardian ad litem program.

    It can also mean a longer spell in the child welfare system before reunification with family or a permanent adoption.

    “There’s not enough foster homes,” Lambert said. “There’s not enough resources to care for the increasing number of kids that come into the system.”

    • • •

    New reports of children removed because of abuse and neglect arrive every day at the Edgecomb Courthouse on Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa.

    Monday’s docket in a small courtroom on the third floor brought six new cases, each awaiting a shelter hearing. All six reports involved either domestic violence or drug abuse.

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa approved removal in them all.

    In most counties, reports from the Florida Abuse Hotline of children at risk are investigated by staff of the care agency contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

    Hillsborough is one of only six counties where investigations are handled by the local sheriff’s office. The others are Broward, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, and Seminole.

    Of those, all but Seminole removed children at a rate higher than the state average in the 2016 fiscal year. Hills­borough was the highest of those: On average, children were taken from homes in 14 of every 100 investigations. Statewide, the rate was 8 in 100.

    Hillsborough’s Child Protective Investigations Division includes 75 investigators. They are not sworn deputies but take a 12-week training course and then additional on-the-job training to get certified by DCF.

    Capt. Jim Bradford, deputy division commander, agrees that the county’s removal numbers are high but said only children in danger are removed.

    He points to how seldom judges deny removals as proof his staff is getting it right.

    In 4,173 cases since 2011, only 66 times has a judge told investigators they got it wrong. Only one removal out of 458 this calendar year was reversed.

    “The last thing the Sheriff’s Office wants to do is to remove a child from his family,” Bradford said. “We go to great pains to keep that family intact.”

    Juvenile dependency attorneys who represent parents note shades of gray.

    There’s no question that removal is the right action in most cases, said Tampa lawyer David A. Dee. But there are borderline cases where children could have remained in the home with regular monitoring and additional social services.

    The cases that cause him the most heartache are when single parents, usually mothers, are jailed for crimes not directly related to parenting, like driving with a suspended license. The state takes custody of the children unless they have relatives or friends who can take them.

    In the poorest neighborhoods, some parents have no relatives or friends willing to take a child. Even the willing will not be given the child if any adult in the home has a criminal record.

    “Dependency court is an economic court; most of the people have no money,” Dee said.

    Tampa lawyer Norman Palumbo, whose clients include parents and grandparents, said the state faces a balancing act between keeping families intact and keeping children safe.

    Right now, the emphasis leans more to keeping children safe, he said, but that means some children are unnecessarily taken away from their home, their parents and their possessions .

    Once in the care of the state, they may be there for a while.

    Eckerd Kids sets a goal of getting 60 percent of children returned to their families or placed permanently with foster parents within one year of removal.

    Over a 12-month period ending in June, it failed to meet that goal even once and in May and June also failed to meet the state target of permanently placing 40.5 percent of children within one year.

    “I think they’re playing safe. I don’t think they realize the harm they’re doing to the kids,” Palumbo said. “Even when you err on the side of caution, it’s still an error.”

    • • •

    As Florida’s fourth most populous county, Hillsborough is always likely to be among the counties with the highest foster child population.

    But the county has long been regarded as an outlier by child welfare professionals because the number of removals was disproportionately high, said Don Dixon, who spent 24 years working for DCF and rose to be district administrator.

    Economics may be a factor. More than 23 percent of children in Hillsborough live in poverty, according to U.S. Census estimates. And Hillsborough County ranked 98th out of the nation’s 100 largest counties when it came to income mobility for poor families, a 2015 Harvard University study found.

    Children of all races end up in foster care in Hillsborough. The majority this year came from east Tampa and an area west of the University of South Florida, according to reports from the Child Protective Investigations Division. But removals also occurred in rural and suburban areas such as parts of Brandon and Progress Village.

    Plenty of tax dollars are spent to prevent children from meeting that fate, including about $3.22 million for Healthy Families, a program to educate and work with pregnant and new mothers for up to five years.

    But participation is voluntary, and many families shy away from allowing support workers into their homes.

    Hillsborough’s size and population also makes it a challenge to reach every parent.

    Hospitals deliver about 17,000 children each year in the county, more babies than are born in some states.

    “Hillsborough County is a complex county,” said Jane Murphy, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County. “We’re urban; we’re rural; we’re suburban and we have all the issues that come with that.”

    Dixon, the former DCF administrator, said the vast majority of removals made during his time at the agency protected at-risk children.

    His best theory is that the removals are a consequence of bad behaviors, traits and choices among parents.

    The county has ranked among the worse for the number of domestic violence arrests, drunken drivers, substance abuse, and even the number of people who smoke, he said.

    “My speculative conclusion: Unhealthy communities produce unhealthy results,” Dixon said.

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  • Feb 11 2016

    Kiermaier to battle 2-pound steak for charity

    by Bridget Roberston


    By Bill Chastain / MLB.com | @wwchastain | February 3rd, 2016
    ST. PETERSBURG -- Babe Ruth once devoured between a dozen and 18 hot dogs at a train station during an eating binge before blacking out.

    The story is as much a part of the Ruth legend as his called-shot homer in the 1932 World Series. Extremes were the norm for Ruth.

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier will take on a Ruthian-like challenge Thursday night when he attempts to devour a 35-ounce smoked ribeye at Smokey Bones in Clearwater, Fla. The event will raise money for the Friends of Joshua House Foundation, which is a safe haven for abused, abandoned and neglected children, offering a therapeutic residential group care program that provides a protected, nurturing, family-like environment for children ages 6-17.

    While the challenge sounds like something the Bambino might do, the Gold Glove Award winner sounded more like Roberto Duran heading into the event: "No mas."

    "Oh, no, no, no, let's not get this twisted," Kiermaier said. "There's no way I'm going to be able to finish this steak. I've already accepted that. I'm going to do my best to eat what I can, but there's a zero percent chance of me eating 35 ounces of a steak."

    The idea of the lean Kiermaier taking down such a meal brings to mind a python whose belly is swelling with a recently digested animal. That visual is not about to happen, though.

    "I'm trying to stay in shape," Kiermaier said. "I want to steal some bases this year. I don't need this little food baby showing in my stomach."

    He chuckled.

    "So, like I said, I'm going to eat what I can," Kiermaier said. "But I'm not going to get to a point where I'm uncomfortable or shoving food down my throat. But I guess I'm going to give it my best shot, and I guess we'll just see how I feel tomorrow when I get there."

    Kiermaier noted that he's not about to turn into Adam Richman of "Man vs. Food."

    "No, I think that guy has a little more of reputation to finish things," Kiermaier said. "Finish his food. That's what he gets paid for.

    "For me, this is for a good cause, and I'm just trying to do my part and eat as much food as I can. It's a pretty easy concept. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to see what the turnout's going to be like. I don't know if I'm going to have people rooting me on like 'Man vs. Food' or not. But we'll see what happens. I know I can not eat 35 ounces of steak."

    Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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  • Nov 02 2015

    Junior League enlists Girl Power to mentor troubled kids

    by Bridget Roberston

    By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff 
    Published: November 1, 2015   |   Updated: November 1, 2015 at 01:42 PM

    LUTZ — Chavon moved 30 times by the time she turned 13, giving her bragging rights of a sort among the children who live at the Joshua House.

    The cost she paid for this time in and out of foster care was high — anger management issues and struggles in school. But now 16, Chavon turned her life around during the three years she has lived at the home for abused, neglected and abandoned children from the Tampa area.

    One reason is the mentoring she gets from a group of 21 women who have taken the girls at Joshua House under their wing. A committee formed by the civic association Junior League of Tampa, they call themselves “Girl Power.”

    They encourage progress in reading and writing, offer career advice, and teach lessons many girls would get from a mother, sister and grandmother — things like feminine hygiene, cooking and sewing, balancing a checkbook.

    “It’s the best thing to happen to me here; I love when they come,” said Chavon. At the request of Chavon and the Joshua House, the Tribune is not using her last name. “They teach me things I don’t learn anywhere else and they’re role models who believe in me.”

    The Joshua House offers onsite services such as tutoring and professional counseling. Girl Power is an independent group that has visited the home in Lutz once a month for the past three years. The Junior League is considering now whether to renew the commitment in January.

    “It’s needed,” said Aleks Jagiella, chairwoman of Girl Power, who said she is confident the renewal will come. “I cannot envision the Junior League taking us away from the girls.”

    Jagiella, 43, a Tampa attorney, knows how foster children need adults they can trust to lean on for support. She was 16 and a senior in high school in Georgia when she entered the foster care system.

    Her parents had a bitter divorce, she said, and her father was left to raise her alone. He was not an ideal parent. She then became a difficult teen and a runaway so the court decided to place her in the foster system.

    She lived in two foster homes over a six-month period and both sets of foster parents treated her well, Jagiella said. Still, it was among the hardest experiences of her life.

    “I was uprooted from everything I knew,” she said.

    She was afraid, confused and felt alone.

    “I was in the same school and a bit embarrassed to suddenly become a foster kid so I became isolated to avoid talking about it with other kids.”

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    Jagiella credits the mother of her best friend with helping her through it. She did little things like taking her shopping or simply providing a shoulder to cry on. She was a woman the young girl could trust.

    “It was then I decided I would do the same someday,” said Jagiella, who is in the process of adopting two young foster children. “Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have such angels in their life.”

    The Junior League is an international, all-female organization that works to improve communities and develop women who want to become civic leaders.

    Each local chapter decides its focus based on community needs.

    The Junior League of Tampa, with 1,800 members, focuses on child welfare and education.

    Among its initiatives are working in schools with high populations of low-income students to ensure they receive proper nutrition and educating the community on issues such as human trafficking of children.

    “The Junior League is always searching for new ways to help the community,” said Tampa chapter President Stacy Carlson. “Unfortunately for girls at Joshua House, there have not been consistent role models in their lives. We felt we could help.”

    The Joshua House is a residence for 36 children, 24 of them girls. An estimated 150 foster children live there for some period each year, said philanthropy director Janet Caramello.

    Some are orphans. Others have parents living in the area but home life is troubled.

    Joshua House can serve as a short-term transitional residence during the search for a foster home or, as with Chavon, a long-term home if a child can best benefit from consistent access to its therapeutic services, Caramello said.

    The average length of stay is five to six months.

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    Every year, more than 1,000 Florida teens and young adults leave foster care without families, according to the Children’s Home Society of Florida. Thirty-three Percent of those who leave without a support system will be homeless within three years.

    In addition, 50 percent of young adults who leave foster care at 18 are unemployed and for those who do have jobs, the average income is less than $14,000 a year, the society says.

    By promoting self-esteem and scholastic success, Girl Power hopes to turn around those statistics.

    “Girl Power provides the girls at Joshua House educational opportunities and stresses the importance of education,” Carlson said. “But I think showing them that there are adults in our community who care about them and are concerned about their futures is just as important.”

    Still, the girls at the Joshua House did not take to the Junior League women at first, Jagiella said.

    “They saw us as nothing more than women in pearls,” she said with a laugh. “Like typical teenagers, they would roll their eyes at us when we talked.”

    What won them over, Jagiella said, was the return visits. The foster children came to realize that the Girl Power would come back month after month, not leave them as so many others have.

    It also helped to learn that Jagiella and another committee member had been foster children.

    “It’s nice to have role models who experienced what I have and succeeded,” Chavon said. “It proves I can do it, too.”

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    In Girl Power’s first year, the volunteers seldom would see more than half the female residents of Joshua House attended an event. Today, all 24 usually turn out.

    “The girls here say Girl Power is among their favorite activities,” Caramello said. “Chavon in particular has taken their mentorship to heart. It has changed her. She is more confident now and plans to go to college.”

    The learning process has extended to members of the committee, too.

    Originally, they focused primarily on applying for college, career advice or literacy. Then a year ago, employees of the Joshua House informed the Junior League women that the girls could use some woman to woman talk, as well.

    Now, the get-togethers cover a wide range of subject matter. The Girl Power volunteers also bring along small gifts a parent might give out — sewing kits, diaries, makeup and hair accessories.

    Recently, when a few of the teenage girls had a school dance to attend, Girl Power helped them with dresses for the occasion.

    Still, the group is about more than giving. It is also about teaching to give.

    In October, for instance, Girl Power brought a seamstress to Joshua House to teach the girls to sew. Using their new skill, the girls stitched Teddy Bears for a Ronald McDonald House as presents for the sick and injured children who are served there.

    In December, the girls will buy holiday presents for a poor family.

    The lesson is civic-minded thinking, that there is always someone in greater need.

    This has inspired Chavon.

    An honor student now, she wants to become a doctor — maybe a heart surgeon.

    “I want to help people,” she said, “because people are helping me.”

    READ MORE
  • Aug 31 2015

    Triad Employees volunteer at Joshua House

    by Bridget Roberston

    A group of Triad team members from the St. Petersburg headquarters used their company-sponsored volunteer day to help spruce up a few buildings at Joshua House.

    Watch their video here.
    READ MORE
  • Jan 28 2015

    Ardent Joshua House kids' supporter to host open house

    by JOYCE MCKENZIE

    TEMPLE TERRACE — Jan Sutton has never been one who seeks attention.

    But she has no qualms in telling people about her passion for collecting teddy bears and Beanie Babies — and selling them to benefit a group of children she believes deserve special consideration all their own.

    “It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about the kids.”

    Toward that end Sutton is planning to host an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 31 in her home at 6814 Monet Circle in Temple Terrace. It’s where she houses the countless donations she’s garnered in recent months in anticipation of the upcoming event.

    The public is invited to stop in, browse and buy whatever cuddly creatures catch their fancy.

    Sutton has raised more than $25,000 over the past six years, which in turn she’s donated to Joshua House, a residential group care program in Lutz for children 6 to 17 who’ve been abused, neglected and abandoned.

    She specifically stipulates that the money be spent on activities for the kids, such as pizza parties, movies and trips to area attractions.

    Sutton — who when she invites guests to her home for special occasions requests they bring teddy bears or Beanie Babies in lieu of wine as tokens of their appreciation — also raises money for children’s holiday parties at Joshua House as well as raises funds for the boys and girls softball uniforms.

    To supplement the sales of the donated items she assembles and mans a large booth — of course with an array of teddy bears and Beanie Babies for sale — near Dillard’s at the Shops at Wiregrass from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.

    “I just can’t imagine what it’s like for her to set up the tables and all the bears,” said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of Joshua House Foundation. “She is a wonderful lady who just wants to help those kids.”

    In recognition of Sutton’s generous contributions for the children at the Joshua House, the foundation awarded her the 2013 Olin Mott Golden Heart Award, named after one of its founders.

    Terry Perkins is the fire chief of the Medulla Volunteer Fire Department in Lakeland and an employee of the company Sutton’s husband founded, which is now run by their son. Perkins said that during the Christmas holidays his crew raised enough money to purchase more than 150 new teddy bears — bears they donated to her cause.

    “We were happy to do it because Jan is so supportive of Joshua House and those kids,” he said.

    Donations, however, need not be new because Sutton also is in the doll repair business and is happy to mend a “broken” arm or most any other “boo-boo” an item may have.

    For more information or to donate items, call (813) 980-2507.

    Joyce McKenzie can be reached at joycecmckenzie@gmail.com.

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