Partnership Assists Homeless Children In Transition
By Maria Sonnenberg // November 6, 2013
2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARINS
ABOVE VIDEO: Debra Green and Louise McLean partner up to help children in Brevard affected by homelessness.
Louise McLean was watching television a couple years ago when a “60 Minutes” report changed her life – and the lives of hundreds of Brevard County children. The segment that held her rapt was an investigation into the plight of homeless children in Central Florida.
“I saw these kids,” recalled McLean. “These kids were crying. They were stressed out because they knew what their parents were going through. I thought to myself, ‘That’s just not right. You only get one shot at being a kid.’”
She wondered how many children in Brevard were affected by homelessness. Rather than return to her busy life and forget the issue, she began to investigate.
She contacted the Brevard Schools Foundation and discovered that there were 964 homeless children in the county.
Next came a series of meetings and casual conversations as she talked out the problem and collaborated with others to work out a solution. The result was Brevard Children in Need, an organization that raised funds to help children and offers practical help for children in transition. Meanwhile, the number of children in need has risen to more than 1,600.
McLean, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, was invited to speak to the Space Coast Association of Realtors board of directors about her concerns.
Realtors have a close-up view of what can be lost when a family is forced out of their home, she said.
When agents walk through a home recently vacated through foreclosure, they often see the pink bedroom and the blue bedroom, or maybe the notches on the kitchen wall marking a child’s growth.
“Have you ever stopped to think what happened to those children?” she asked.
The Realtors group became a major partner with the organization, sponsoring an email campaign. In two months, agents donated $12,000.
More partnerships followed, notably with the Cocoa Beach Area Hotel and Lodging Association.
Debra Green, general manager of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, took the lead and helped organize a raffle and silent auction at the property for the past two years.
Brevard Children in Need is an organization that raises funds to help children and offers practical help for children in transition. Locally, the number of children in need has risen to more than 1,600.
Green took the efforts a step further at prom time, organizing a day to share prom items. “Initially, my goal was to get 75 dresses,” Green said. “We acquired 250 prom dresses, shoes and accessories.”
The items were set up as a boutique, and senior girls could try on and select what they wanted. Green even arranged cab service for girls who didn’t have transportation, and helped raise money to cover prom tickets.
“It was very moving to read their thank you notes, and we will do this again 2014,” she said.
FUNDS BENEFIT BREVARD SCHOOLS FOUNDATION
In another outreach effort, a private donor gave $1,000 earmarked for Christmas gifts for needy kids. McLean remembered shopping at Target last year and reading a wish list from an 8-year-old girl.
“I don’t know what to ask for because no one’s ever asked me before,” she’d written.
That private donor increased his gift to $2,000 this year. In 2012, the organization’s first full year, brought in $41,000; that figure already has been surpassed so far this year. All the money goes to the Brevard Schools Foundation, earmarked to help homeless children. Brevard Children in Need takes no money to cover administrative costs.