Southwest Missouri organizations that serve abused and neglected children announce large grants

Nov. 6—Nearly $5 million in Facility Improvement and Infrastructure grant funding was awarded to 12 community-based organizations working to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect in Southwest Missouri.

The Missouri Children's Trust Fund announced on Friday more than $19 million in grants awarded to 59 organizations throughout the state aiming to protect children from abuse and neglect.

"Far too many children in Missouri grow up without the safety and security they deserve," Emily van Schenkhof, executive director of the Children's Trust Fund, said in a statement. "These funds are a testament to the commitment of our state to do more to protect children. We are thrilled to make this historic investment in the non-profit community that works to prevent and address child abuse and neglect."

Jasper County Court Appointed Special Advocates, Children's Center of Southwest Missouri, Children's Haven of Southwest Missouri, Rapha House International and the Alliance of Southwest Missouri are among some of the local organizations awarded grants. The groups issued a joint press release announcing the historic financial support on Friday.

The Missouri General Assembly allocated money to the Children's Trust Fund for facilities and infrastructure projects as part of a one-time grant to help aid organizations dedicated to caring for vulnerable children.

"Organizations preventing and addressing child abuse and neglect do some of the most meaningful work in the state," state Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said in a statement. It was Smith, House Budget Chairman, who added these funds to the state budget. "I'm thrilled to see these investments made in their infrastructure that will support those children and their families for years to come."

Jasper County CASA

Jasper County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), which broke ground on its first building at 1825 Carolyn Place this year, was awarded $458,275 from the Children's Trust Fund.

The local nonprofit uses volunteers who are appointed by circuit court judges to advocate for children and youths who have experienced abuse or neglect, many of whom are in foster care.

Debi Koelkebeck, Jasper County CASA executive director, said Friday that she was ecstatic about the grant and said it will impact countless current and future children in the community. Approximately 500 children are in foster care on any given night in Jasper County, according to Koelkebeck.

"Rep. Cody Smith has been wonderful to support all of the work that these agencies do in the community, and he was responsible for going to Gov. Mike Parson and asked to have this money allocated specifically for child abuse, which is sadly so needed in the state," said Koelkebeck.

The nonprofit plans to finish construction of the Jasper CASA Training and Connection Center by the end of this year and Koelkebeck said the funding will help with operations. The new center will feature a full kitchen, a teen lounge, meeting spaces, offices, a training room for volunteers, a washer and dryer, as well as a playroom and learning areas.

The construction project was made possible after the nonprofit reached its $1 million campaign goal last year with support from the community, businesses and in-kind donations.

"With our capital construction going on right now, the timing was perfect for us to apply, and it's going to allow us to be in really good shape to not only finish the building, but to be able to serve children into the future," said Koelkebeck. "Out of the 500 children that are in foster care every night, right now we serve about 200. This funding will allow us to continue serving children, and it's extremely generous."

Other Awards

The following agencies in Region 3 Southwest Missouri were also awarded grants from the Children's Trust Fund:

—The Alliance of Southwest Missouri- $746,591.75

—Rapha House International, Inc.- $462,853

—Children's Center of Southwest Missouri- $668,939

—Children's Haven of Southwest Missouri, Inc.- $283,417.56

—Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri- $410,400

—Community Partnership of the Ozarks- $850,000

—Child Advocacy Center, Inc.- $181,009.79

—Dogwood Ranch- $339,250

—Good Samaritan Boys Ranch- $229,858.58

—Great Circle- $241,953

—Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center- $74,826.72