After 150 years of helping families build brighter futures, Epworth Children & Family Services continues to grow its footprint. Through merging with Progressive Youth Connection (PYC) this year, Epworth has expanded its preventive programs. “We are helping families before they unravel,” notes CEO Kevin Drollinger.
Under Epworth’s umbrella, PYC’s violence prevention and anti-bullying programs are reaching more kids and families throughout the community. “We hope to double those services in the next year because we have more resources,” Drollinger says.
By going into area schools, residential treatment facilities, juvenile detention facilities and community organizations, Epworth’s Master’s level clinicians impact youth from kindergarten to 12th grade in the areas of conflict resolution, violence prevention, cultural diversity, healthy relationships, decision-making skills, self-esteem building and more. “Within schools, there are gangs and violence and issues where people assault one another,” Drollinger explains. “Our education programs for classrooms teach respect and appreciation of people.” And where there are instances of bullying, Epworth’s staff works with students who are bullying and being bullied in their schools, as well as with their families.
To support these prevention programs, Epworth will hold its annual Wine Dinner & Auction on Nov. 9 at The Ritz-Carlton. The black-tie affair will feature a custom menu with wine pairings. Wine enthusiasts also will have the opportunity to highlight their collections. The Ritz has worked with each oenophile to design food oriented toward showcasing favorite bottles from local cellars. And to cap off the evening, an auction will offer wines, winery trips and more.
Last year’s record-breaking gala raised $357,000, and organizers hope to build on that success. More corporate sponsors than ever before are supporting this year’s event, notes Deborah LeMoine, who is co-chairing the gala with her husband, Bryan.
Event proceeds will help grow preventive services, including counseling through Family Support Network, which merged with Epworth last year, LeMoine explains. Therapists, who currently serve about 220 area families, provide sessions for up to a year, as well as a year of follow-up services. “The counseling occurs in their home environment where life happens for families,” LeMoine notes. With 30 families remaining on the wait list, she emphasizes that every dollar from the dinner counts. “We want the same thing for kids at Epworth as we want for our own kids, so they all can be excited about transitioning into adulthood.”
In addition to its expanded preventive services, Epworth continues to offer programs to treat child abuse and neglect, from foster care case management and transitional and independent living to emergency shelter for youth facing a family crisis.
Epworth also remains active in legislation impacting area youth. This year, it spearheaded Senate Bill 205, which called for extending the foster care age limit from 18 to 21. In what was a special moment for Drollinger and a group of children from Epworth, they recently were on hand to witness the governor signing the bill, which officially goes into effect next week.
Drollinger says it is “phenomenal” to see each child's reaction to Epworth’s unwavering support. “A youth recently told me, You’re a nice guy, but you get paid to be nice. But the volunteers, they must really care about me.”