The board of directors of Avedis Foundation announced a grant of $103,000 to Youth and Family Resource Center, Inc. of Shawnee.

The board of directors of Avedis Foundation announced a grant of $103,000 to Youth and Family Resource Center, Inc. of Shawnee.

“Avedis recognized the needs of the children Youth and Family serves and the limited funding Youth and Family receives to make on going facility and program improvements. Thanks to Avedis we'll be able to purchase a much needed van to transport children to events and activities and add to the shelter improvements begun in 2012,” said Marilyn Bradford, Youth and Family board president.

Youth and Family is one of 36 children’s shelters in the state of Oklahoma and the only shelter of its kind in Pottawatomie County. It is the only advocacy center in the state of Oklahoma that offers closed-circuit testimony for young child abuse victims and since 1971 approximately 25,000 children and families have received help.

Hope House is a safe haven for children without a home or in a crisis that provides a home-like, supervised, nurturing environment for children, according to Youth and Family’s website.

“Through the years, thousands of children have walked through our doors. Unfortunately, due to stringent budget challenges, there has not been a lot of extra money to contribute in the maintenance and upkeep of Hope House and our 14 outreach programs. While the wonderful people in our community have donated their money and time throughout the years, some of our needs have grown significantly,” said Sharon Trammell, executive director for Youth and Family.

One of the programs through Youth and Family is the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. CASA recruits, screens and trains volunteers for assignment by the court to speak up for an abused or neglected child. Currently, there are 18 CASA volunteers serving 34 children. Those Court Appointed Special Advocates donate over 2,000 hours of service each year.

“This gift will allow the Court Appointed Special Advocate program to not only grow and blossom but it will allow us to serve more children in our community,” said Tiffany Page, CASA Director.

According to Page, with their new national and state accreditation for CASA and with the Avedis grant, the CASA program can train more community volunteers to represent the best interest of abused and neglected children.

“The more volunteers we are able to train, the more children we can serve,” she said.

Page said their ultimate goal is to try and serve every child in the system. Last year there were 360 children in Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties that were the victims of child abuse and neglect.

“Every one of these children needs a voice, needs an advocate fighting for them and protecting them,” she said.

Avedis Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation that was established in June 2012 from the sale of Unity Health Center to St. Anthony Hospital. It is one of Oklahoma’s larger foundations, with assets in excess of $100 million, established to invest in the county through grants that support projects and benefit nonprofit organizations within the foundation’s granting area.

“The definition of Avedis, according to the foundation website means ‘one who brings glad tidings; the bearer of good news,’” said Dana Langley, vice president of the Youth and Family board.

“Marilyn, Sharon, and I were sitting in the Avedis office last Friday when the announcement was made by Michelle Briggs. When they stated that Avedis had awarded us our entire grant amount, the look on our faces had to be similar to a child on Christmas morning. We were astonished, amazed and very grateful to say the least,” she said.

Michelle Briggs, president and CEO of Avedis Foundation, said the grant is going to make upgrades in the Youth and Family offices, family room and other areas of the building as well as supplying new furniture. She said she’s excited to be a part of helping the organization.

Langley said concerned people in the community ask what the Hope House does and how it relates to the Youth and Family Resource Center. She said they’re amazed to find out the shelter attempts to run daily with a $500,000 budget and also provide 14 different programs to families and children in Pottawatomie and surrounding communitities through the Youth and Family Agency all during the same work day.

“Over the past several years the state budget cuts have greatly hindered our financial situation therefore making grant writing a must. The Avedis grant could not come at a more opportune time for us and we are ecstatic to dream about the future possibilities for both the Youth and Family and the Hope House,” Langley said.

According to Trammell, the Avedis grant money will be utilized to purchase the first Youth & Family van, make renovations, and update our technology.

“The van will allow our 12 Hope House residents to have safe transportation for outings. Currently, it takes three child care workers driving their own vehicles to transport the children to an event. Transportation has been a challenge for many years. In addition, new living room furniture, mattresses, washer and dryer, dining room tables, computers and e-readers for the residents will be purchased,” Trammell said.

Along with all the upgrades, the inside and outside of the facility is getting new carpet, paint, furniture for the lobby, family room, supervised visitation room and conference room as well as siding on the outside trim. The staff will also be updating technology with new computers and software to help better assist them and their clients.

“We are excited to see the before and after pictures side by side,” Briggs said.

Langley said she would like to thank the Shawnee community for supporting the Youth and Family’s Santa’s Helpers and Bikin’ for Hope fundraisers, which has made it possible to start a construction project on the Hope House Shelter.

“The generous Avedis Grant will allow us to not only complete the needed "Wish List" for the emergency shelter but to provide additional funding for the Youth and Family Agency needs,” she said.