The number of children and families affected by child abuse and neglect in Alachua County has increased in recent years. The Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Gainesville Auxiliary is dedicated itself to reducing these numbers. Since the group’s founding 25 years ago in 1991, Children’s Home Society (CHS) has impacted the lives of thousands of children.
In 1991 on September 21, a group of ladies met for coffee after attending the annual CHS “Puttin’ on the Ritz” event. The afternoon’s host had previously been a member of the CHS auxiliary in Broward County and had a vision of creating a similar group in Gainesville. Following each woman’s introduction to the event that day, a desire to help the area’s children was ignited, and the Gainesville auxiliary branch was born.
“It’s a pleasure to serve alongside our many members. We have many women who joined in the early nineties who are still very active today. Caring for our community’s children is close to our hearts, it’s not only the mission of CHS. And knowing we are contributing to that purpose keeps us all coming back. The Gainesville Auxiliary is an organization that we are proud to be a part of. It’s like a family,” said Liz Ayers, one of the founders of the Gainesville auxiliary branch.
Left to right: Truitt Oliver, Becker Holland, Terri Monaghan (Auxiliary President 2016-17), Ann Boyd, Sandra Thompson, Barb Caputo, Alisha Bowen, Liz Ayres (Founding Member), Ashley Banks, Eleanor Curtis, Kim Bosshardt, Kim Cinque, Donna Carroll, Beverly Waters, Michael Pittman
Giving back has always been an important pillar of the group’s mission. They held their first fundraiser in November of 1991, a fashion show called Fashions by Ilene. The price of admission was a $1 donation. In the auxiliary’s second year, the group took over the annual event that ignited their passion, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Members planned, organized and worked the event, held in April of 1992 at the Oaks Mall. “We’ve hosted 23 successful Ritz events since our first, but I believe the first one was the most canadian online gambling exciting,” said Ayers. “Ritz was and is a trademark event in the Gainesville community. Undertaking its coordination solidified our group and allowed us to contribute to CHS’s mission in a large, integral way.”
The auxiliary grew to be an assembly of dynamic women and men determined to make a difference for the children in Alachua County. From holiday parties and fundraising events to advocating at the Capitol, auxiliary members are faithful supporters of CHS and a voice for Gainesville’s most vulnerable.
The group coordinates visits to local clubs and organizations to educate the community about preventing child abuse, share the impact of CHS in the community and invite others to become involved. The free presentation is available to the business community, churches and clubs.
When not advocating in the community, the group volunteers their time for events and CHS programs. As the oldest and largest statewide organization devoted to helping children and families, CHS offers programs that help break the cycle of abuse in families, heal the pain for traumatized children and provide supervised visitation between parents and children in a safe, home-like setting. Their dedication helps the community’s most vulnerable children and families: moms like Sarah, a single mother of two who found help from the infant mental health program at CHS, or dads like Ricky, a father whose strained relationship with his son healed during visits at the Family Visitation Center. Thanks to the Gainesville auxiliary’s support and CHS’s qualified staff, Ricky learned how to provide his son with the nurturing structure and guidance he needed.
The unwavering determination of the Gainesville auxiliary helps CHS serve more than 500 families like these each year in Gainesville. Their dedication is unmatched. Today, the auxiliary remains a strong partner of CHS in Gainesville, helping serve over 6,000 children and family members each year in the Mid-Florida region. Its members are gearing up for the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Ritz event where guests will enjoy a fire and ice theme, as well as live entertainment, dancing, an extensive silent auction and the finest cuisine and beverages of Gainesville. The event will be hosted on March 11, 2017 at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center. To learn more and purchase tickets, please visit www.chsfl.org/ritz.
Photography by John Sloan and courtesy of Children’s Home Society
To learn more about Children’s Home Society of Florida, or if you’re interested in helping children in Alachua County by joining the Gainesville Auxiliary, please call 352-334-0955 for more information. If you’re interested in hosting a member of the auxiliary at an upcoming organization event or meeting, please email [email protected].