Leader says ‘truly remarkable gift … will catalyze our future growth’ in region
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Friends of the Children – Central Oregon announced Thursday that the organization HAS received $1.4 million as part of a $44 million gift to the national organization Friends of the Children from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
Friends of the Children, a 21 Cares for Kids partner, is the only national mentoring program in the country with paid, professional mentors (called Friends) who walk alongside youth for 12+ years — no matter what.
“This gift offers powerful momentum for the organization to serve more children in Central Oregon, many of whom are in — or at risk of entering — the foster care system,” the organization said in its announcement, which continues below.
“We are honored to receive this truly remarkable gift from MacKenzie Scott,” said Rachel Cardwell, executive director of Friends – Central Oregon. “This gift will catalyze our future growth and expansion throughout the region. It will allow us to partner in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
“The timing couldn’t be better, as we celebrate five years of service, and as we prepare to welcome our incoming cohort from La Pine. In the coming months, we will build these funds into a new strategic plan, one that will leverage our new 19-acre ranch for learning and discovery, and deepen our work with youth and families. We are excited for what this gift means for our youth, and the many more we can and will serve thanks to this investment.”
This is the largest single gift ever received by the chapter. The funding will support the 5-year-old organization in sustaining its commitment to be alongside youth for 12+ years, no matter what, as well as growing the number of youth and families it serves, taking lessons learned from its most recent expansion into serving La Pine and leveraging the chapter’s 19-acre ranch for youth learning and discovery.
Simone Biles, youth advocate and Olympic gymnast, said, “I know from my own experiences that children often face a lot of hard things as they grow up and the love and support I received after my foster care experience allowed me to thrive and see myself for all that I could be.”
“That’s why I believe the long-term mentorship that Friends of the Children provides is so meaningful —having just one person who believes in you can truly impact a young person’s life. I am excited that MacKenzie Scott is investing in Friends of the Children to empower more youth across the country! In supporting Friends of the Children, it is my hope that more children will have access to a ‘Friend’ and be inspired to pursue their hopes and dreams in all communities, including my hometown of Houston, Texas.”
Youth in Friends of the Children — many of whom have been impacted by foster care — achieve outstanding results considering the national statistics for youth transitioning out of foster care:
· 83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while in some communities, graduation rates are as low as 27% for youth without a Friend;
· 93% of youth with Friends avoid the juvenile justice system, compared to 74% without Friends;
· 98% of youth with Friends avoid early parenting, while only 74% without a Friend wait to parent until after their teen years; and
· 92% of our program graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or become employed in a living wage job.
Friends – Central Oregon pairs youth with big dreams who have been impacted by systemic inequities, which may include poverty, foster care and criminal justice system involvement, and other childhood traumatic experiences with “Friends” who stay by each child’s side from as early as age 4 through high school graduation.
“The core of our work is to give those that need us the most the best opportunity to have a different perspective than where they are now,” said Aaron Hinkley, professional mentor at Friends – Central Oregon. “When it comes to being a mentor, we show grace, humility, and role model the skills that will ultimately help change cyclical poverty – self determination and management, perseverance, and growth mindset. We are friends to the families too. This gift will have an impact on all of them and more.”
In addition to Friends – Central Oregon, 11 other Friends of the Children locations across the country received gifts directly from MacKenzie Scott. Funding gifted directly to Friends of the Children – National will support the organization in expanding its child and whole-family well-being services through new Friends of the Children locations and expansion of other current locations. Over the last eight years, Friends of the Children has grown from five to 26 locations across the U.S.