Advocates for Children Celebrates a New Year and Looks Back at 2016 Accomplishments

CARTERSVILLE, Ga.- Jan. 18, 2017: Advocates for Children started the new year of 2017 by thanking donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and other supporters of the organization at the annual appreciation dinner Tuesday. Community members gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of 2016, look forward to 2017 and recognize some of those who dedicated themselves to Advocates’ mission of preventing and treating child abuse in all its forms.

It is the contribution of those volunteers, donors, and partners that makes the organization’s reach even larger Advocates for Children President and CEO Karen White explained during her welcome to the audience. “The one thing that makes this evening special is that each one of us has a shared belief that every child matters and is deserving of a healthy childhood, said White. “Our donors who give generously so that we can offer our services at no cost. Our volunteers who devote hundreds of hours to advocating, mentoring and healing. Our community partners who hold hands with us to create a safety net for our families. And our staff, who work tirelessly and often thanklessly to change lives.”

Calling 2016 “a year of change” at Advocates for Children, White noted leadership transitions, the expansion of in-home parenting services and new faces in the local juvenile court system and DFCS offices. The year also saw a variety of fundraising events including a talent show, gala auction, 5K run and a designer show house, as well as many events planned on behalf of Advocates. It also saw the introduction of a new strategic plan for the organization and four short-term initiatives.

“These include our funding strategy and optimizing our resources, positioning our board of trustees for success, improving our internal staff operations, and creating a community referral network to strengthen our safety net for families,” White said. “Our team has made significant progress in each of these four priorities, essential to our long-term vision.”

The appreciation dinner, which is held annually to thank all friends of Advocates for Children, also honored eight people and organizations for their contributions in their respective areas. Among those honored at the event were:

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer of the Year – Connie Zessack

Advocates for Children CASA Director Ava Lipscomb said, “She is tenacious – in everything she does. Her first case was difficult, because she had to build a bridge between a teenage girl and her mother, and members of their neighborhood. She worked diligently to not only speak up for the child in court, she taught the child and her mother how to advocate for themselves in court and their community.”


Mentor of the Year – Jack Keeler

Advocates for Children Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter Director Lyndsey Wilson said, “Our Mentor of the Year was a mentor to one of our residents for over a year. He was paired with a resident who was quiet and very reserved – nothing at all like himself. He had to work diligently developing a relationship with our resident and trying to find ways to bond. It took about 10 months of dedication and perseverance of weekly visits before we really saw the resident open up to his mentor. We almost passed out when we heard the resident ask his mentor to take him to the local fair.”


Fundraising Volunteer of the Year – Butch Ries

Advocates for Children Development Director Amy Davis said, “He has a genuine connection with our mission and every effort he makes is an attempt to better the lives of the children we serve. His enthusiasm, sense of humor, and hard work have helped to raise more than $90,000 for our organization. Each year, he strives to make his tournament (the AT&T Corporate Real Estate Property Management Charity Classic) bigger and more exciting with the goal of raising the most money possible. We are so thankful to have him as a part of our Advo-family.”


Volunteer of the Year – Howard Sthay
Advocates for Children Board Member Nicole Hughes said, “He is the face behind-the-scenes of many important events – both big, and small. As the event chairperson for the Duck Derby, I can personally say that if not for this person, and his team at Gerdau, the logistics behind the Duck Derby would be difficult, if not impossible. He is selfless. He has a big heart, but doesn’t demand recognition.”

Special Recognition – Nicole Hughes

Advocates for Children Board Chair Tina Hudson said, “She is an outstanding individual who personally believes in ‘all work and no pay’ when it comes to volunteering her time to improve the lives of children. Yet she never tackles this goal alone; her contagious enthusiasm resonates to family, friends, and clients who all commit to join her time and time again.”


Special Recognition – Tim and Marcia Nugent

Advocates for Children Board Chair Tina Hudson said, “The two recipients of this award gave countless hours of their time, their passion, their voices, their hearts and their home for the betterment of our organization. They successfully helped us reach a greater spectrum of people and share our mission through our Magnolia Designer Show House. Though the overall project was the result of the hard work of many people, no one sacrificed so greatly as the homeowners.”


Civic Group of the Year – Kiwanis Club of Cartersville

Advocates for Children Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter Director Lyndsey Wilson said, “Advocates is incredibly grateful for the dedication and commitment the Kiwanis Club has shown to the children of Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter. They give their time, effort, and energy to make sure our kids get to experience a life as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”   




Community Resource Partner of the Year – Bartow Family Resources

Parents as Teachers Director Liz Fox said, “Their Baby Bucks program and their Relationship Center have proven to be invaluable to our families. Many of the parents we work with need the resources and support they provide, which they provide for free. One of our favorite resources they offer is the emotional support – not only for the families we serve, but also for us.”


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