LAKELAND, Fla. – Jennifer O’Neill talked about working as a high fashion model and acting with John Wayne in the movie Rio Lobo. But she explained that she was never truly fulfilled until she placed her belief and trust in Jesus Christ at the age of 38. This was the message that keynote speaker O’Neill gave to the more than 80 women that gathered in Lakeland last month for the third annual Women of Compassion Forum.
The Women of Compassion (WOC) group is comprised of women that have contributed $1,000 or more to the WOC fund and work to unite women around key goals and objectives of the Children’s Homes.
According to Julie Boyd, vice president of development for the Children’s Homes, the primary objective of the group is to raise money for some critical needs of the Children’s Homes as well as establish a platform to maintain an ongoing dialogue on the needs of disadvantaged children in the community, state, and around the world.
“Our Women of Compassion group works together to make a significant impact on the lives of hurting children. They are all committed to giving, praying, and serving,” Boyd said.
The theme for this year’s forum was Wild About Kids, which started on a Thursday evening and concluded the following Friday afternoon. The forum included special music from Eva Kroon Pike and Kim Davis as well as special music and testimony from Lyda Mazur, a young teen who lives at the Children’s Homes’ campus in Lakeland.
WOC members also heard from speakers on a variety of childcare topics, which included understanding a child’s journey through the foster care system and discovering the needs of orphans in the developing world. In addition, they also voted on how to direct a portion of the funds raised by the group.
“Half of the funds we raise go toward the direct needs of the kids in our care. The other half of the funds go toward a project voted on by the members,” Boyd said.
In past years WOC has provided funding for new furniture for the Protected Harbor cottage that serves developmentally delayed ladies on the Fort Myers campus. Other projects have included funds for independent living and funds to build homes in Guatemala and Honduras for needy families.
This year WOC voted to direct $25,000 for adoption and foster care scholarships. These scholarships will help select families meet the demanding resource needs sometimes required to complete an adoption. In addition these funds will also go to help select foster families enhance their care giving by providing key items such as needed furniture, appliances, and other items to help improve the environment and experience for their foster children.
Gina Cruz who spoke at the forum about the foster care system and what it’s like to be a foster parent, said that she was very gratified that the group voted to fund the adoption and foster care scholarship program.
Cruz, who currently fosters four children, said that when someone first receives a foster child or in some cases multiple foster children, there can be significant expenses in getting the home ready.
“Many foster parents don’t have extensive means, and this scholarship program will be a big help for some of them in getting off to a good start in their new foster parent role,” Cruz said. “Sometimes you need to purchase new bedroom furniture or a new appliance due to having more people in your home to care for.
“When kids move into a new foster home they often come with nothing more than the clothes on their back. The foster parents immediately have to purchase new underwear, socks, shoes, clothes, diapers, and other personal care items.
“We also want to be able to provide our foster children with new toys that belong to them. They should be able to have things that they get to keep, and not have to give them back when they leave your home. The world has treated these children rather poorly. As God’s people, I believe we should do all we can to give these special children our very best.”
For more information on joining Women of Compassion or contributing to the adoption and foster care scholarship program, contact Julie Boyd at Julie.Boyd@FBCHomes.org or go to the Children’s Homes’ website at FBCHomes.org and select Women of Compassion under Ways to Help.