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Sherry Thomas-Cloud

A Message from CEO Sherry Thomas‑Cloud

September, 2021

Dear Friends:

As the summer comes to a close, I’ve had to take a moment to look back on all that has been and all that will be. Looking back, my heart is lifted by the giving spirit of our community. We asked—and you responded. When circumstances were exceptionally difficult, you, our donors, opened your hearts to those who were feeling the hit most. You made a difference.

In “Because You Care,” you will read about continuing needs where we continue to need your helping hand. Our HANDLE WITH CARE program brings stability and support to families and children in our community who need it most. We are doing all we can with your generous gifts to keep people in their homes and out of shelters, to keep the lights on and food on the table.

As We Make Our Holiday Wish Lists” reminds us that the holiday season is not so very far away. Your gifts to the Holiday Giving Program go to holiday gifts for children, but also basic needs of families, as the need for help doesn’t take a holiday break.

As September is Suicide Awareness Month, we share some positive news in “Talking About Suicide,” but we also take a realistic look at how suicide affects our community—and how we can help prevent rising rates. It’s not a topic anyone enjoys addressing, but we must. It’s a conversation that can save lives and help to remove the stigma about mental health.

Enjoy another chapter of Family & Children Services history, “Chapter 7: The War Years,” by Fiona Holmes and Mary Becktell, writes about the years spanning 1937 to 1947. When I read about our history, it reminds me that we can handle most anything that comes our way—and we can do it because we have you helping us along the way.

With Gratitude,

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

Family & Children Services

Talking About Suicide

September, 2021

Suicide is a topic shrouded in secrecy, but in this month of Suicide Awareness, it’s a topic of importance deserving a closer look. And so—we’ll start with the good news.

During 2020, the year most of us will remember as the year of the pandemic, suicide rates in Michigan went down—44,834 Americans died by suicide in 2020, a decrease of 5.6 percent from 2019. In Kalamazoo, 47 people died by suicide during 2020, with the most vulnerable group being males between the ages of 26 to 64.

Suicide is a death by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die because of the behavior. While one might assume that the isolation of the pandemic would lead to feelings of hopelessness, the numbers seem to indicate the opposite.

To understand this unexpected trend, Susan Davis, program manager of Home and Community Services at Family & Children Services, recommends that we look deeper at what influenced the fall in rates so that we can avoid seeing them go up once again.

Read much more >

View Upcoming Suicide Awareness Events >

Because You Care

September, 2021

When all around us can be a chorus of voices, it can be difficult to distinguish the single voice crying out to be noticed.

You heard that voice.

Our donors have spoken up in unity throughout this past year and made it known—you care about the greater good. You care about your neighbors and your community. You care about keeping hope alive when so many need to have their belief in hope renewed.

You care that even the softest voice, calling for help, is heard.

And yet the voices continue to cry out, and HANDLE WITH CARE is here to respond.

HANDLE WITH CARE, the annual fund of Family & Children Services, provides critical resources when and where they are needed most. Through HANDLE WITH CARE, we have extended emergency funds to stabilize children and families who are most at risk.

We have kept people in their homes and out of shelters. We have helped put food on empty tables. We have kept the lights and heat on and provided technology and academic enrichment to ensure children are ready to return to the classroom.

We have been able to do all of this—in answer to the voices lost in the crowd—because of you.

As the need in our community for help remains, we ask you to keep hearing those singular voices. Giving to HANDLE WITH CARE has never been more important.

Your simple act of caring brings hope to a family in desperation. It reminds us all that many individuals joining forces can effect powerful change.

Please make your voice heard and consider making a gift to HANDLE WITH CARE.

Holiday Giving

Holiday Giving

As We Make Our Holiday Wish Lists

September, 2021

Summer is coming to an end, and before long we will watch the colors begin to change in the trees overhead.

It won’t be long before we will see the first snowflakes fall.

With that ever-present change of seasons, one thing will have remained the same: families in our community will still have unmet needs. During the holidays, when lights seem to shine brighter everywhere but in the homes of these families, those needs can have more urgency than even during the everyday.

Our Holiday Giving Program is unique in that exists to help families and children during the holiday season. Family & Children Services matches community donors with the needs of our clients. Community donors provide in-kind donations, such as gifts, household supplies and/or personal care items, to families, children, and individuals in great need throughout the season.

If you would like to expand the impact of the Holiday Giving Program without being matched with a client family, the In-House Holiday Store is another way that you can give to others.

The In-House Holiday Store allows our staff to respond and provide individuals with donated items so that they have something to give to their children during the holiday. The In-House Store is entirely stocked by community donations from individuals, schools, churches, local businesses, and corporations.

When that first snowflake twirls from the clouds overhead, it is our hope—and the hope of our clients—that it will bring along with it a little extra holiday joy into the hearts of families and children in every corner of our community.

Please consider becoming a Holiday Giving donor by completing the form here. You may return it to Tesi Klipsch at Tesi.Klipsch@fcsource.org or call 269.270.4763 with inquiries.

Somewhere, someone will smile this holiday season because of you.

Family & Children Services

A History of Family & Children Services

September, 2021

Chapter 07: The War Years, 1937‑1945

Chapter 7: The War Years was researched and written by guest author Fiona Holmes, a Kalamazoo College senior history major.

The Depression’s Aftermath

Despite years of federal relief received by the city, the effects of the Great Depression were still felt in Kalamazoo a decade following the stock market crash of 1928; accounts of inflation, homelessness, and widespread deprivation filled the Kalamazoo Gazette. Frequently, Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League workers took to its pages, seeking furniture and food for needy families, while the heads of other charity organizations in town also frequented the paper. The League, like so many other Community Chest member organizations, increasingly depended upon the generosity of Kalamazoo citizens rather than provisions from the federal government to meet the needs of Kalamazooans.

In January of 1937, the Gazette featured an interview with Caroline Gilfillan, the Civic League’s longtime secretary, who emphasized that the effects of the Depression were anything but over, noting that the previous year had been one of “rough sailing.” Acknowledging that Works Progress Administration (WPA)-funded programs were established “during a period of unprecedented and prolonged cold and stormy weather” when it was imperative “to fill in gaps” while individuals sought stable work and housing, Gilfillan insisted that need remained high despite improvements in the economy and years of assistance from the federal government.

With over 461 new families added to the League’s caseload in 1936 alone, and the welfare quota collected by the Community Chest remaining above $131,000, Gilfillan had good reason to remind the community of the organization’s work: many Kalamazooans believed the worst effects of the Depression were over. This would not be the last time that League workers sought to diffuse the notion that the passing of time had diminished the effects of the Depression. In September of 1940, the Civic League sought more donations to the Community Chest, reminding the readers of the Gazette that, “Increasing employment does not necessarily mean that the demands of the Civic Improvement League and the Civic League Home will be any less insistent in the coming year.” It was only because of the generous contributions from local citizens that “hundreds of families in the community” were spared “from actual suffering and despair.”

Read more or listen to an audio recorded version here >

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