by Susan Wenner
People Editor, Sanford Herald
Friends of Children and Families (FriendsCF) and iPrevail have partnered together to help youth in need. Todd and Tina Marinshaw began iPrevail several years ago with their friend, Dara Urbina. The creation of this organization began as an outreach to assist victims of a deadly hurricane, Typhoon Haiyan, that hit their home country of the Philippines. She had witnessed many people left homeless in spite of billions of dollars from big charities and governments. "We wanted to help hands on and see them overcome long term," said Marinshaw. "We wanted to teach them to fish not just give them fish."
The non-profit, iPrevail is dedicated to sustainable relief and rehabilitation for families or individuals who have been affected by calamities and personal tragedies. Their goal is to assist toward long term recovery and healing for those in the United States and the Philippines. The groups involvement with Friends of Children and Families began when the Marinshaws moved to Oviedo some 2 years ago and discovered that right down the road from their house was a foster group home. "A neighbor initiated to help the Foster Home but she was literally verbally attacked in the NextDoor app, since they determined the donation of an Xbox is not charity,'" she said. "I put a post on Facebook through iPrevail personally and our usual network of friends, Kierstyn Bishop, Dara Urbina and others stepped out. Within a couple of hours I had about $600 for an Xbox and games. Kierstyn suggested we do something more hands on, cook for them and do their hair and nails." The friends later planned a barbecue and others joined in the effort. They were all excited and further inspired, seeing more women show interest in helping and strangers come together for a common goal. Besides her friend from church, Kierstyn, a long-time friend, Dara, her neighbors, Angela and Wednesday, the ladies shared a bond, although some are opposite in faith, politics and more. Their mission now was purely and wholly the same; a heart for the children. "Wednesday started a Facebook group Foster Friends of Oviedo," said Marinshaw. "In my mind it was just to help us get organized as we plan for events but the group grew to 200 within a couple of weeks. Before we knew it we had an avalanche of donations. Strangers buying bed in a bag for all homes, people donating clothes and gift cards." With the Facebook page now at 700 active members the women have brought together volunteers to deliver meals to 5 group homes, prepare welcome baskets, organize paintball, art class vents and more. "It has taken a life of its own, where the whole community has stepped in to provide community parenting and normalcy to these kids who are otherwise isolated, depressed, hopeless," she said. "Wednesday has a story of her own. Her 14 year-old is in a 2 year rehab out of state and she has taken this on as her personal cause to help those she can. She is the one who really ran with the group idea, collected donations daily and grew the group to what it is now. She is the face of Foster Friends of Oviedo.”
Desmond Taylor, the Chief Executive Officer for Friends of Children and Families, couldn't be more thrilled with the ongoing assistance the homes have received by iPrevail, their friends and all the caring folks in the community. "Collaboration is a major part of our success," he said. "We don't see other non-profits as competition but as a resource for the children we serve. It is rewarding just seeing kids who have been abused or neglected given the chance to blossom and have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood in a safe environment. Many of the kids who have left our program will still stay in contact with us; it is always nice to hear that they have graduated or that they have a great job." He shared that his work with the foster home is not just a job for him but truly a passion. "I am passionate about helping kids once they turn 18 and leave the foster care system," he said. "Even though they may be young adults, they still need services and support to help them be successful. I want to help children that are less fortunate and give them hope that they can break the cycle of abuse, neglect and substance abuse. I want to grow our outpatient counseling services to help prevent at risk families from entering into the child welfare system."
Friends of Children and Families was recently awarded a 3-year accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, a non-profit, international agency that certifies that human services organizations are upholding a high standard of care. Friends of Children and Families is a member of Florida Coalition for Children, an organization that brings agencies and individuals together to advocate for the needs of neglected and abused children. I attend their conferences and meetings on a regular basis to stay current regarding trends in child welfare. The homes are always in need of donations to assist with school supplies, clothing and activities. For more information or to assist with iPrevail or the homes go to www.iwillprevail.org or www.friendscf.org or visit the Facebook pages for the groups.
Originally published at https://www.mysanfordherald.com/articles/2017/07/11/iprevail-helps-youth-need-friends-cf