There’s something about the kids at the Bellewood campus of Centerstone Kentucky. “They stay with you,” says Yolonda Fakir, a supervisor in the Appriss call center, and co-chair of the company’s community service committee.
She’s not alone. For the past few years, the kids at Bellewood have held a special place in the hearts of all Appriss employees. “Our first big event was a back-to-school cookout and school supply drive,” Fakir says. But the committee wanted to do more.
Now, Appriss has a year-round relationship with the children at Bellewood. “We’ve helped with Easter baskets, provided Halloween costumes and candy for 60 kids, and served Thanksgiving dinner to all the kids and staff on campus,” says Fakir. “We also send out birthday cards every month.”
And then there’s the December holiday event, when they join the kids and staff for an afternoon of food and fun. Appriss employees bring cookies for the kids to decorate and enjoy. The first year they baked the cookies in the cottages, but Fakir says the kids were barely able to wait for them to come out of the oven. This year, they baked the cookies the night before to bring in fresh for the celebration.
The holiday theme isn’t an accident. The kids at the Bellewood campus have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. They live in family-style cottages, receive therapy and go to school on-campus. For kids who can’t spend time with their families on holidays, the events can help them create their own special memories and holiday traditions.
Bringing hope and holiday magic, and finding it too
“The holiday season is a magical time at Centerstone’s Brooklawn and Bellewood campuses as our community gives generously of their time, talent and treasure,” says Abby Drane, Centerstone Kentucky’s CEO and president. “It’s certainly a difficult time for our children and having a team of Appriss volunteers help our kids and staff get in the holiday spirit reminds us of how blessed we are to live in such a wonderful community.”
For Fakir, spending time with the kids brings hope to her and her call center colleagues as well. “At Appriss, we talk to victims on the phone every day and know the situation affects others in their family,” she says. “Sometimes we hear them discuss children involved and wonder what happens after the call ends.”
Spending time at Bellewood is special not only because of the children but because they represent hope for a better future and a positive outcome. “These kids are the victims of abuse and may have been removed from violent households,” says Fakir. Without the help and support offered at the Bellewood campus, Fakir notes that they could have become abusers as well. Centerstone Kentucky helps break that cycle by healing kids who’ve experienced mental and physical trauma.
A history of helping children in Kentucky
Centerstone Kentucky is the result of a recent merger between Uspiritus and Centerstone, but its local roots and dedication to helping kids in need goes back more than 160 years. The Bellewood campus got its start in 1849 as the Bellewood Home for Children, a self-sustaining orphanage complete with livestock and crops.
Bellewood grew to include four campuses statewide offering a range of services for abused and neglected children and young adults, including therapeutic foster care, residential living, independent living, transitional living and prevention services.
Brooklawn Child & Family Services opened only a few years after the Bellewood orphanage. Originally a home for the orphaned children of immigrants, the focus shifted to a foster care program. Their treatment center for chemically-dependent youth was the first of its kind in Kentucky.
In 2012, Bellewood merged with Brooklawn to become Uspiritus, offering residential treatment, therapeutic foster care, outpatient treatment, family preservation and other programs. Six years later, in 2018, Uspiritus merged with Centerstone, a non-profit behavioral health organization, to become Centerstone Kentucky.
The goal throughout has been to provide the services and support kids and families in the community to not only survive, but thrive. The merger means that the new agency can help families earlier and will be able to offer more resources to Kentucky children and families in need.
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