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Sherry Thomas-Cloud

A Holiday Message from CEO Sherry Thomas-Cloud

December, 2019

Dear Friends:

For those of us that are fortunate, the holiday season is a time that we create lasting memories of time spent with family and friends in this season of holiday giving. We’ll reflect back on our favorite family meals, gift giving, and shared laughter. Good times!

Yet, in our very own community are those children and families who live in a place of lack and hopelessness. Because this is not our reality, it is easy to overlook this truth for far too many. I am asking you to see them.

As we busily visit stores and click away online, purchasing gifts for our loved ones, let us remember those who live in poverty. For these children and families, the holidays are a stark reminder of what they don’t have and have no ability to give to their loved ones.

It is in our hands to bring some light into the lives of others in need. Please take a moment to read about our many programs, such as HANDLE WITH CARE, an annual fund to provide for basic needs of those who come to us for help often when there is no other community resource. Read about the many ways that you can give—and the wish lists of children. Read about the holidays in Gail’s House, a shelter at Family & Children Services that becomes home to children when they can no longer live with their families.

For my part, and speaking on behalf of staff members and families we serve, I want to thank each and every one of you for your generosity now and throughout the year. You have already brought so much light into the lives of our families—and helped us to shine a light on those in our community who too often live in the shadows, forgotten.

Thank you for seeing, acting, and not forgetting!

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.

With Gratitude,

Sherry Thomas-Cloud
Sherry Thomas-Cloud, M.S.W., L.M.S.W.
Chief Executive Officer
Family & Children Services

We See You

December, 2019

Poverty does not take a holiday.

Abuse and neglect do not take a holiday.

Addiction does not take a holiday.

Trouble happens every day.

“The needs of our clients don’t stop for Christmas, New Year’s or other holiday celebrations,” says Courtenay VanderMolen, Director of Resource Development at Family & Children Services. “Emergencies come up, needs arise, and accidents happen.”

That’s why we have HANDLE WITH CARE, an annual fund that funds urgent needs that come up in a moment of crisis. Every dollar donated goes directly to meet that critical need—auto repairs, household necessities, rent and mortgage payments, trauma treatment, utilities, furniture basics, educational needs, and more.

You have no doubt passed someone in crisis most every day without even realizing it.

That broken down old car you passed last week on the side of the road. Did you notice the man standing beside his car? He was staring in despair at the smoke rising from its hood, because he knew he couldn’t afford the repairs. He had to miss work, again. The car had caused him to miss work several times over the past few months, and his boss was beginning to grumble about hiring someone new.


That man’s name is Brent.

HANDLE WITH CARE provided the funds for Brent’s auto repairs, and he didn’t lose his job. In fact, he’s been early to work ever since his car has been running fine again.

The woman standing on the sidewalk—did you see her? She was out there just this morning, hiding her blackened eye beneath her sunglasses, even though it was a rainy day. She had just run from her home, grabbing nothing more than the coat she was wearing.


Her name is Dyanne.

HANDLE WITH CARE helped Dyanne with first month’s rent in a new apartment, and she was grateful for a warm and safe place to live, and a fresh start. She learned about counseling services available at Family & Children Services that would help her learn to make healthier choices for her future.

Then there was that little boy sitting on the front stoop of his house. So small, so easy to miss, and sometimes even his parents forgot that he was there as they became embroiled in yet another argument. Sometimes they even forgot to feed him, and when he peeked inside the refrigerator, often there was nothing there. Did he catch your eye as he sat on that stoop, chin in his hands?


His name is Dominic.

HANDLE WITH CARE brought food for Dominic’s family, and his parents learned about programs to help get their family back on track.

They are all easy to miss, especially when life gets busy, and our own everyday needs overtake us. But there they are, every single day, even when we don’t notice.

“We are so grateful for our donors to HANDLE WITH CARE,” VanderMolen says. “Our donors have made it possible for us to help people like Brent, Dyanne, and little Dominic, and so many others. The program helps to support our child welfare, behavioral health, and crisis services, and we’re proud to have supported thousands of people who have come to us for help.”

To donate to HANDLE WITH CARE and let these members of our community know that we see them, and that we care, visit https://www.fcsource.org/ways-to-give-hwc.html.

Thank you.

Gail’s House Video

Gail’s House

Gail’s House

Night of Holiday Wonder

December, 2019

As you gather with your family this year, take a moment to acknowledge family members who are present and available to listen to you and give you encouragement. Your warm, safe home with a dinner prepared and ready to eat. Children anticipating the gifts they will receive. Now strip away all that is familiar and comforting. At a time the rest of the world is focused on family and friends, you have been removed from your home and everyone and everything that is familiar to you.

During this holiday season, Ashley Kipp, Crisis Services Supervisor, expects to have about four children staying at Gail’s House Foster Care Shelter.

“This year is the second year that we have celebrated Christmas at Gail’s House,” she says. “These are girls, ages 10 to 15, who are stuck in a temporary situation because, at the moment, home is not a safe option of a place to live. They are uncertain as to where they will go next and who will be taking care of them.”

The staff of 13 at Gail’s House do everything possible to bring some holiday cheer to these children.

“I ask staff to volunteer to work over the holidays, and I always end up with too many,” Kipp smiles. “Everyone wants to do something to help.”...

Learn more >

Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League

Undated photo of the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League’s new headquarters, acquired in 1918. Courtesy of WMU Zhang Legacy Collections Center.

A History of Family & Children Services

December, 2019

In 2023, Family & Children Services will celebrate its 120th anniversary. In each newsletter between now and then we will feature an installment exploring some aspect of our history. Ultimately, these installments and others will be compiled in an institutional history book featuring photographs, newspaper clippings, and other archival materials.

Preserving the history of our organization’s founding and evolution is a cause that has been adopted by many over the years. First to adopt the cause were the League’s earliest general secretaries, who faithfully recorded meeting minutes by hand in large ledgers. As we advance through the twentieth century and then enter the twenty-first, we will attempt to recognize the historians before us whose efforts have enabled this work.

The primary resource thus far in Family & Children Services’ ongoing history project are internal records, which offer thorough accounts of happenings dating back to 1903 but are marred here and there by gaps of several years. So far research for each chapter has been bolstered by the rich resources of Western Michigan University’s Zhang Legacy Collections Center and the extensive knowledge of its staff.

Research for Chapter 1: Caroline Julia Bartlett Crane & the Women’s Civic Improvement League benefited hugely from the work of Kalamazoo College student Dolores Matheny, who in 1951 wrote a paper titled, “History of The Women’s Civic Improvement League, 1903-1912.” Matheny’s original paper is available via the College’s digital archive.

The second installment of our history drew on a number of resources, but none more heavily than the 1914 “History of the Civic League,” written by Mrs. Lydia G. Wood. A Women’s Civic Improvement League board member since 1904, Mrs. Wood remained on the board through the 1912 reorganization of the League and its rebranding as the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League. After more than 25 years of service, Mrs. Wood resigned from the board in 1930.

Chapter 3: Gaining Momentum, 1917-1920 drew on Kalamazoo Gazette articles and accounts of Kalamazoo institutions published by the Kalamazoo Public Library on their local history page.

And this fourth installment, which extends our history through 1923 and recaps the first twenty years in timeline form, made use of League scrapbooks in which relevant Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper clippings were clipped and pasted. Sometimes it was not immediately apparent why particular articles were saved.

Read more >

Holiday Giving

Share the Blessing

December, 2019

The holiday season is a time when we become especially aware of how blessed we are. As we look around at our family gathered over a delicious meal, a decorated tree blinking its colored lights in the corner of the cozy living room with stacks of brightly wrapped gifts below, and a fire crackling in the fireplace, we are overcome with a sense of wellbeing.

Not everyone is so blessed.

At this time of year most of all, we want to share our many blessings and give to others. Family & Children Services has many ways to give that are convenient and suit any budget.

Holiday Giving Program

To bring a touch of holiday joy to others who might otherwise have none, the Holiday Giving Program matches community donors with community members who are most in need. Children, families, and individuals throughout our community live in poverty or suffer from addiction, abuse and neglect, mental illness, and other challenges.

Their holidays are bleak—but with a little help from you, can be brighter. Donors like you provide in-kind donations, such as gifts, toys, food, household supplies, personal care items and more.

Learn more >

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