By Bill Mahoney
Twenty years ago, I learned that when children enter the foster care system they were often separated from their brothers and sisters. I could not imagine that after enduring a childhood filled with abuse and neglect they would suffer a fate of losing their siblings during such a turbulent time. After visiting a group home campus for siblings in North Florida, my colleague Karla Nickell said, so now that we know that this is such a huge issue, how can we just turn our backs on this?
We were insurance brokers without any idea of what it would take to start a nonprofit organization, but we knew that we had to do something. In 1996 we established Children’s Harbor as a 501(c)3. We had no campus and no money but we had passion, persistence, and a caring community.
Starting a nonprofit organization is sort of like raising a child; it comes with all of the same joys, heartaches, and fears for its future. Along the way, Children’s Harbor was blessed with incredible support from the City of Pembroke Pines who provided us with a beautiful 8 acre campus and with innumerable individuals and community-minded corporations who gave us their time, talent, and treasure.
Now in 2016, we are celebrating Children’s Harbor 20th Anniversary and I am one proud papa! The organization has grown into a top-notch, nationally accredited child welfare agency. Over the past two decades, Children’s Harbor has provided 3,800 families with in-home counseling, given 60 teen mothers a safe haven to raise their babies, and offered 250 foster care children a loving place to call home.
So if you are thinking about making a difference in your community or in the life of a child, I would tell you to open your heart and follow your passion. Don’t hesitate, you CAN make a difference, and I promise that you will get back more than you give.