Local support made merger possible

Published 9:38 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank you for your Oct. 30 article regarding our merger with the Center for Hope and New Beginnings. ForKids’ board and staff are excited to become a part of the Suffolk community.

However, one important element was missing from your story.  The support of a handful of leaders and four local funders within the community are what made it possible for ForKids to take on this new responsibility.

ForKids had just completed a threefold expansion in services that was already stretching us financially. So, when we were approached by CHNB, we knew we would need to have strong support from the local community if we were to take on Suffolk House during an economic crisis that is causing more families to need services while fewer resources are available.

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Richard Bray, George Birdsong, Whitney Saunders, Doug Naismith and Peter, Jon and Tracie Pruden all gave generously of their time and wisdom to set us on a course to ensure the success of joining CHNB and ForKids. They toured our facilities, asked hard questions and then helped us to shrink a seemingly unmanageable projected two-year deficit.

The Beazley Foundation provided us with funds at the onset to cover expenses related to due diligence. The Pruden Foundation gave a generous $25,000 gift, Tracie Pruden began setting up a local Advisory Committee, George Birdsong committed $25,000 from the Birdsong Corporation and then The Obici Healthcare Foundation agreed to a two-year grant of $300,000, the largest foundation grant received by ForKids in our 20-year history.

To say that we are impressed by what is possible in Suffolk would be an enormous understatement. In my 13 years at ForKids, I have never had such immediate, overwhelming support of a new project. It gives me great hope for what will be possible here in Suffolk.

In exchange for this investment, ForKids will work tirelessly to “break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children” in Western Tidewater. Last year, 87 percent of our families exited our program to housing, despite overwhelming personal obstacles. In June, 94 percent of our children advanced to the next grade. To put that in perspective, only 71 percent of Norfolk’s 9th graders graduate on time, and research shows homeless children are the most at-risk to be held back.

We look forward to meeting and working with everyone in Suffolk and Western Tidewater in the coming months: individuals, businesses, service organizations, faith communities and other non-profits. It will take all of us working together to turn the tide against homelessness. We extend our sincere thanks to everyone who made it possible for ForKids to help Suffolk and Western Tidewater bring families home.

Thaler McCormick

Executive Director