A Deserving Highlight of the Loving Sponsors and Volunteers Behind the Organization
By Marissa Pietrobono
In 1902, a glimmer of hope arrived for orphans who were alone, malnourished and desperate for families with the creation of the first Children’s Home Society (CHS). Today, Children’s Home Society of Florida remains a respected and indispensable nonprofit organization, continuing to help thousands of children find “forever families.” They offer programs that provide residential care, parent education, counseling and more to change lives for the better for neglected, abused and orphaned children and break the vicious generational cycles of abuse and neglect for future families. The Brevard division of CHS has yielded inspiring results, including the fact that nearly 100 percent of families that complete their programs remain abuse-free. They serve approximately 500 daily, and up to 2,500 each year, with more than 800 children becoming adopted each year.
Child Advocate of the Year
Husband and wife John and Carol Craig are this year’s recipients of the Child Advocate Of The Year honors for all they have humbly done for the CHS organization. They have been involved for many years, with Carol beginning volunteering for them in her twenties. When they moved to Brevard County, they actively sought out the local CHS, and Carol became a supporter of the Hacienda Girls Ranch, a safe haven for girls in their teens in foster care.
On what inspires them about CHS: “Children do not choose their life, life chooses them. CHS is all about making their lives fulfilled and giving them the opportunities to succeed. Carol was adopted at birth by a caring and loving family. She understands the need for proactive support for children through adoption and foster homes. CHS provides solutions and options for children and families. In addition, CHS partners with local organizations like the Brevard Public Schools to address family needs. CHS is a stakeholder in the Endeavour Elementary Community School in Cocoa, the first of its kind in Florida. It provides necessary family outreach including medical, dental and social support. By addressing basic needs, CHS gives families the opportunity to succeed and grow.”
Volunteering at CHS Led Her To Adopt Her Daughter — Daniela Venizelos
I heard about CHS when I became a Hacienda Women’s Guild member. I had a desire to help young girls thrive and see themselves as something more. I also volunteered as a cook for quite some time there every Tuesday, and then became a mentor. My daughter came to Hacienda Girls Ranch the day I was there cooking. She seemed to be fragile and alone. She had opened up to me the minute she walked into the kitchen and she felt comfortable with me. Throughout the weeks of my return to cook, she seemed to gravitate towards me so I had decided to become her mentor. From February of 2015 until June 2015 I was her mentor. There were discussions about her going to live with another family member in Ohio, but she did not feel comfortable with it. Based on her background, it did not seem like the right thing to do either.
She was a 17-year-old girl stuck with a 10-year-old mentality. No one taught her about life; I was doing that as her mentor. Discussions with my son and boyfriend and all of my family members about her made me realize that we needed to take her in. By July she was in my home, and as she lived with us for a few months I had realized she needed a real family. With her permission of course, I asked her how she felt about me becoming her mother. She said ‘I thought you were already.’ On November 21, 2015, she became my legal daughter. We have our ups and downs, but it’s a big learning process for her. She is a straight A student, honor roll student, and has immensely impressed us with her abilities. She will be going to college in the fall to become a nurse and we are 100 percent standing behind her on her dream.
Special Sponsor — Leasha Flammio-Watson
I was introduced to CHS by Maria Seelman several years ago who told me about the amazing things they were doing at the Hacienda Girls Ranch and the impact CHS was making on so many people in our area. The subject of child abuse and neglect is difficult to comprehend, let alone imagine what these children have endured before CHS. Over the years I’ve learned more about the organization and have been proud to sponsor their annual Portraits of Possibilities fundraiser, as well as attend the event. This is such an amazing organization of people dedicated to making a difference every day. They provide support to children of abuse, foster families, and potential adoptive parents when they need it most; it is truly inspiring. The ongoing positive impact CHS creates improves the community in which we live, the schools children attend, and the future of generations to come.