Embracing Children. Inspiring Lives.

What does home mean to you? Whether young or old, living in the U.S. or on the other side of the world, most would say that it goes beyond the four walls of a house to a place where they feel accepted, loved and safe.

Every 47 seconds, a child in the U.S. suffers from abuse or neglect, and every year, Florida’s Child Abuse Hotline receives more than 200,000 calls. To escape these issues at home, nearly 2.8 million U.S. children run away every year, and of those in foster care, one third of them will be homeless within three years of exiting the system. 

The cycles of abuse, neglect and abandonment have existed around the world since the beginning of time. For the last 100 years, however, Children’s Home Society of Florida has worked to combat these issues through its programs for children and mothers and through state legislation. Locally on the Space Coast, the Brevard division serves approximately 500 daily, and up to 2,500 each year.

More than Meets the Eye

“When someone thinks of Children’s Home Society of Florida, they often imagine a multitude of young children in our facilities, but what we’re doing is so much more than that. Our programs have shifted since the beginning,” commented Nick Geinosky, director of charitable giving at Children’s Home Society of Florida. “Most of our programs now are off-campus, and it’s really about prevention and parent education; making sure parents have the tools to take care of their kids so they don’t have to put them into foster care.”

Children’s Home Society of Florida exists to break the generational cycle of child abuse, protect children from harm, heal children who have been hurt, create strong and stable families, and to help children grow up safe, healthy and prepared for life.

One of Children’s Home Society of Florida’s most prominent programs is Healthy Start, which prepares and assists mothers who are pregnant or families with infants. The organization also offers a variety of mental health programs, whether it is a child who is suffering from anxiety or working with someone with Autism. “It all goes back to coaching the parent. Parenting is hard enough; parenting a child with Autism or something similar is even harder. Those are all things that we try to work with families to do,” said Geinosky.

Panera Gives Back

One of Children’s Home Society of Florida’s most satisfying relationships is with Brevard’s local Panera Bread cafes, owned and operated by Covelli Enterprises. Through its partnership, Covelli has given more than $88,000 to the organization in Brevard County alone, and over $150,000 statewide.

Throughout the year, Panera participates in a variety of giving opportunities. Six months out of the year, Panera sets out Community Bread Boxes for donations. Throughout the year, Panera also provides meals for the organization’s board meetings free of charge. The most prominent campaign, Giving Trees, comes during the holidays, where Panera puts Christmas trees in all of its cafes, and Children’s Home Society of Florida brings in gift tags and ornaments with donation values for customers to bring up to the register with them and pay for with their meal. Customers can also bring toys to donate to the organization and put them under the tree.

This year in May, local Panera cafes will be selling tulip cookies as part of National Foster Care month, where 100 percent of the profits will go to Children’s Home Society of Florida.

“Part of the Covelli mission is to help women and children. So when you look at the work that Children’s Home Society of Florida does, it’s just a perfect fit,” commented Dana Trabulsy, director of marketing and public relations at Panera Bread.

Geinosky commented, “The support of local Panera stores has been tremendous.  It is more than a give and take relationship. Each year we revaluate our joint activities and ensure they are making the intended impact on our community.  In our dealings with all their employees (associates as well as managers) it is clear their desire is to truly make a difference in the lives of individuals and the community as a whole.”

This article appears in the April 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
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