Evans Home program revived Change a Child’s Life campaign aiming to increase regular supporters

Posted: April 26, 2014

The Winchester Star

Marc Jaccard (left), executive director of the Henry and William Evans Home for Children, has welcomed a resurgence of the Change a Child’s Life campaign, led by Jane and John Capehart of Winchester.

Winchester — A group of concerned citizens is rallying behind the Henry and William Evans Home for Children to help improve its financial stability.

A struggling economy and a change in focus with its services has put the home on shaky ground in recent years and caused uncertainty about the future it wants to embrace, Executive Director Marc Jaccard said.

But the revival of a campaign for committed regular supporters is going a long way toward helping organizers to feel more secure in their assistance for children who are homeless or can’t live with their families but would not thrive with a foster or adoptive family, he said.

“When someone outside of the home is willing to solicit help for us, it is a wonderful support,” he said.

Evans Home supporters Jane and John Capehart are leading a campaign called Change a Child’s Life, which asks donors to donate a set amount on a regular basis — monthly, quarterly, or annually, said John Capehart, a Winchester resident.

The campaign also asks donors to tell at least five more people about the project and to determine if they will become donors as well. “I call it the Amway approach,” he said with a smile.

Change a Child’s Life

The idea to start a campaign to help the Evans Home started when Jaccard and Laura Regan, program director, talked last fall during a meeting of the Oglesby Club, a Sunday School class that meets at Braddock Street United Methodist Church, Jane Capehart said.

The group has been donating items to the home for 16 years and last year asked the larger congregation at Braddock Street to help as well, she said. The visit made them more aware of the home’s current struggles.

“We were very concerned about operational costs,” she said.

Around Christmas, the Capeharts suggested starting a program that brought in regular donors, and Jaccard mentioned the existing Change a Child’s Life Club.

It came from an initiative called the 600 Club, started in 1977 by the late M. Kirby Lloyd, former executive director, Jaccard said.

The initial goal of the board of directors at the time was to find 600 donors to commit to $10 a month to support the home, he said. He believes they did not reach that goal, and by the time he was hired in 1995, it had become the Change a Child’s Life Club.

The club was well-meaning but had erratic membership, he said. Before an April 4 event to launch the new campaign, the club was down to 25 individuals or couples who considered themselves members.

“Even though it’s only been a few weeks since our kickoff, we’ve already received some wonderful activity, with over 60 members now and climbing,” Jaccard said.

All of the members of the board of directors committed to joining the club and many of them will also try to obtain additional support, said Ann Wallinger of Stephenson, board chairman. “We were thrilled. As a board, we are overwhelmed with fundraising activities all the time. We don’t have a professional fundraising staff. Any time we get help, we are always grateful.”

The commitments made so far have started at $10 and increased, “but all are greatly appreciated, as they become such a meaningful part of our support system for our children and families served,” Jaccard said.

Struggling financially

The Evans Home has or is the recipient of fundraisers throughout the year, but those aren’t a steady source of income that can always be relied on, he said.

Instead, it needs a steady stream of incremental commitments that may be worked into the budget.

While the home often receives annual donations, they tend to arrive at the end of the year for tax writeoff purposes, he said.

But if something compelling occurs during the year, such as a natural disaster, “there is less in people’s budgets that year and local charities receive less.”

The Evans Home receives $75 a day for each student placed there by Social Services, Jaccard said. Because the homeless children come in as a private placement, the home doesn’t receive state or county funds to cover their living expenses.

In 2013, the home had 25 children enter, leave and stay there, with an average number at any given time of 14, he said. Of those 14, six came through social services agencies with some financial support, and eight came from homeless parents with no support.

The home now has nine children — five from foster care and four homeless — but since 2013, more homeless children are usually in residence, Jaccard said. He noted out that four homeless children reunited with their family and moved into an apartment about two weeks ago.

Now that the home is taking in more homeless than foster children on average, the lack of funds that usually comes with children is really being felt, he said. As a result, the home must draw from the interest growth on its endowment fund.

In 2010, the home’s budget was a little more than $630,000 per year with nine full-time employees and no dependence on its endowment, he said. One employee has since left and not been replaced.

The current budget year — Aug. 1-July 31 — was approved at under $520,000 with eight full-time employees and a $50,000 draw from the interest of the endowment account, Jaccard said.

“The reason the use of endowment funds is disappointing and scary is that the purpose of that account is to grow until one day the home can become completely independent of state funds. And it’s not there by a long shot,” he said.

The goal is to make the home self-sufficient so it is not “at the mercy of a funding stream that is becoming less and less dependable,” Jaccard said.

Shift in focus

The shift in the Evans Home to have more homeless children in residence is in response to a growing need in the community, Wallinger said.

It also reflects the home’s roots.

The Evans Home was started in the summer of 1949 as a place to care for abused and otherwise needy children.

“It was there for orphans and all children in need. That is what we want to get back to,” she said.

When Marc talked to their Sunday School class last year, Jane Capehart said, they were pleased with the home’s desire to help these families by offering a safe place for parents to leave children while they work on getting their lives together.

“Can you imagine being a parent and in some cases having to live in a tent or a car with your child?” she asked.

Officials at the home try to allay parents’ fears by letting them know that they retain full custody of their children, and can visit as often as can be scheduled, Jaccard said. It is part of the program for the children to have some kind of contact daily with their parents and to meet in person weekly. Parents must also work to improve their circumstances during this time.

“To me these parents are heroes. I can’t imagine how challenging that decision is to make, but I would hope I could make it to get my kids out of harm’s way,” he said.

In addition to raising money, the Change a Child’s Life Club is introducing more people in the community to “a new dynamic, a new need, and a new service of the Evans Home,” he said.

Information

For more information about the Change a Child’s Life Club, contact the Evans Home for Children at 540-662-8520 or visit evanshome.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com