Isabella’s Mission – Helping Children in Crisis

by Susan West, CIC Faith Community Committee


Isabella Perez with her mother, Veronica Lowry-Perez, displays some of the baked goods donated to the children at the CIC Children’s Neighborhood

“I want to do a mission,” said Isabella Perez to her mother one day after watching the Joyce Meyer television show.  “Maybe I could go to India or Honduras.”

“Okay,” replied Veronica Lowry-Perez of Santa Rosa Beach, “but why don’t we find something closer to home.”

Isabella is seven years old.  And Mom has become accustomed to her desire to serve.  “Every year,” said Veronica, “she looks for a project.  She has always been very tender-hearted and loving.  She wants to inspire people to do things to help others.”

The project decided upon was a bake sale.  The mission Isabella chose was Children In Crisis, a non-profit charity of caring people working together to provide homes and establish hope to the abused, abandoned, and neglected children of our community.  When asked why she chose CIC,  the diminutive second-grader with long shiny hair and a bright smile quickly replied, “Because I love God.”

The bake sale was an easy decision, as cooking in the Perez household is an important part of family life.  Christmas gifts this year were all home-baked and hand-made items.  And as the plan unfolded, it became a family affair.

Ismael and Sara Perez, who retired from the Air Force in 1987 and settled their family in Fort Walton Beach, were no strangers to community service.  Having helped with many charity events, they took up the torch and drew their friends and neighbors into their granddaughter’s mission project.  Isabella created flyers on her computer and, with her mom, visited stores and businesses to request baked goods.  Isabella herself spoke to the managers, and unsurprisingly, no one turned her down!  The outpouring of donations was way beyond their expectations.

“Isabella is such an exceptional child,” said Pastor Dayna Schaumann, Children’s Minister at Good News United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa Beach.  “She is always the first child willing to do or give whatever she can.”  Pastor Schaumann became a part of the effort, too, as she spent a Saturday evening helping the family to individually wrap each donated item – until 2:30 A.M.!  The following day the bake sale took place after the morning the worship service and was a huge success.  And because there were more baked goods than people, the remaining items were welcomed Monday morning in the teachers’ lounge at Isabella’s school.

The teachers of Butler Elementary school were happy to tip the scales in donations to assist their dedicated student in her mission.  As Butler School Counselor Vivian Green noted, “When you meet this tiny little girl, you know you are meeting someone special.”  Green also commented on how involved the children are in CIC’s Change For Children campaign.  “Every year the big jugs come in and the children love to watch their coins go into it.”

Isabella first heard about Children In Crisis through Change For Children at her school and also through her church which supports CIC.  Pastor Larry Greene told her that she could help children right here in her own community.  And she did just that.  “She is a spirit-filled girl – and we are expecting great things from her.  God is working in her life,” said Pastor Greene.

At the Good News United Methodist Church morning worship service, Isabella presented a check for $500 to Walt Maine, Chairman of CIC’s Faith Community Committee, becoming the youngest contributor to The Children’s Neighborhood.  When asked how she felt about this accomplishment, she replied, “Tired – but good.”

And what does she want to be when she grows up?  A missionary – what else!

Isabella would like to thank the following for their donations:

  • Publix
  • Bruno’s
  • Winn Dixie
  • Mrs. Fields Cookies
  • Rocky Mountain Chocolate Facatory
  • Walmart
  • Fresh Market
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Cake Masters Bakery
  • Pascalli Foods
  • Good News United Methodist Church
  • Family and Friends

Children in Crisis has many volunteer opportunities for the faith community to help support The Children’s Neighborhood:

  • Invite the children to your church services
  • Create a foster care ministry
  • Host birthday parties for the children
  • Host special activities involving the children of your church
  • Join the CIC Benefit Concert Series
  • Take Love offerings to help feed, clothe, and care for the children
  • Mentor and tutor children
  • Provide hope and change lives

Destin Woman’s Club Fashion Show Helps the Children

DWC Fashion ShowOver 400 Emerald Coast trendsetters and CIC supporters turned out to see the Destin Woman’s Club “Steppin’ Out With Style” Fall Luncheon and Fashion Show. The show was held on October 17th at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, and was the fifth year for the event. All proceeds benefit CIC and the Children’s Neighborhood.

The gala was a wonderful event thanks to the Fashion Show committee Chair Teri McCall and the Destin Woman’s Club membership. Thanks also to all the business sponsors and donors who made the show an unequaled success in every respect.

Photo L to R: Teri McCall, Committee Chair, Ken Hair, CIC Executive Director and Susan Polley, President, Destin Woman’s Club

Kids Helping Kids

Megan and Miranda









Megan and Miranda from the internet children’s reality show, “The Megan and Miranda Show” recently visited the CIC Children’s Neighborhood. The children-centered show is featured on and is filled with interesting fun things for children.

The M&M Girlz also presented a check to Children in Crisis to join Kid’s Club. Ric Eddins, founder of the website and show, helped out with a donation of an electric motor scooter for the Neighborhood.

While visiting the Neighborhood, Megan and Miranda also gave the children CDs, DVDs, autographed photos and other memorabilia.

Golfers Help Children in Crisis!

GolfersThanks to great community support the 2nd Annual CIC Children’s Neighborhood Charity Golf Tournament raised an estimated $50,000 in contributions and in-kind donations of prizes, food, services, signs and support!

The tournament was held last week at the Ft. Walton Beach Golf Club and was presented by First Command Financial Services, a full service financial organization committed to helping families plan for and pursue financial success. Dooley Mack Constructors, builder for the next two homes in the Children’s Neighborhood, also joined as a major sponsor this year.

The golf tournament format was a best ball select shot and golfers competed for a wide array of wonderful prizes. Congratulations to the team of Mike Sapp, Mo Evans, Mark Ketchum and Jim Grabo, who won the event with a net score of 57. Bob Young won the closest to the pin prize, and Ann Svitanek won the longest drive contest.

Ken Hair, Executive Director, Children in Crisis, commented, “First Command’s support to the abused, neglected and abandoned children of our community for the second consecutive year is a true commitment of caring. First Command’s support and our other major sponsors, Dooley Mack Constructors, Impact Graphics Sign Co., Lesgo Personal Chef, Polyengineering, Chrysler and American Laser ensured the tournament would be a success. All proceeds from the tournament will help feed, clothe and care for the children of The Children’s Neighborhood.”

Hair continued, “There was a special live auction prize this year that really raised the excitement level of the golfers and participants. Goodyear donated a 30 minute ride for six on the Goodyear Blimp. Jackie Gillespie won the prize with a final bid of $3,000.”

According to Mack Gay, President, CIC Board of Directors, “This is a wonderful show of support to our kids living at the Children’s Neighborhood. I’d like to thanks the participants, sponsors, committee members, staff and the entire community for all they do for our at-risk children.”

CIC Breaks Ground on the Third Building in the Children’s Neighborhood!

CIC Ground BreakChildren in Crisis, Inc. broke ground on the Neighborhood Center this week. This is the third building in the Children’s Neighborhood. The Neighborhood Center will house the staff offices, administrative offices, case worker offices, intake office, therapy rooms and observation room. The Susanna Wesley House emergency shelter and Blessings House foster home were opened in January.

CIC has contracted with Dooley Mack Constructors of Northwest Florida to build the one-story, 3,200 square foot facility. The Neighborhood Center was designed by Prescott Architects, Inc. with a child-friendly atmosphere.

Dooley Mack Constructors, Inc. began as a small General Contracting firm in Sarasota, Florida in 1977 and has sustained steady growth under the leadership of Bill Dooley and Ken Smith. They have been consistently recognized as one of the top regional contractors by Gulf Coast Business Review, are listed nationally in the “Top 400 Contractors” by Engineering News Record magazine and are recognized as one to the top 200 privately owned business by Florida Trend.

The NW Florida regional office was established in 2005 in Panama City, Florida and is now located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Its growing staff of highly qualified individuals is led by Mr. Neil Freshour. Mr. Freshour is a licensed General Contractor with over 28 years in the construction business.

Mack Gay, President, CIC Board of Directors, commented, “This is truly another milestone for CIC and our vision. Thanks to the great support from the community, we’ve taken another step in providing homes and establishing hope to the abused, neglected and abused children of our community!”

According to Ken Hair, CIC Executive Director, “Our progress would not have been possible without the entire community’s involvement. OWC provides the Neighborhood site through a charity lease and our partnership with numerous local construction companies have enabled us to progress quickly. We are truly blessed to have such a supportive community”

Hair added, “We still need funding support to our capital campaign so we can continue building phase 1 of the Children’s Neighborhood. Equally important is securing the necessary funding to help feed, clothe and care for the children living at the Children’s Neighborhood. Now that we’re open and operating, this is critical to our success.”

“Sir Douglas Fir” Helps the Children

Shalimar United MethodistThe Shalimar United Methodist Church recently hosted the production of “The Journey of Sir Douglas Fir,” a children’s musical to raise funds to help feed and clothe children of The CIC Children’s Neighborhood. Pastor Dr. Larry Bryars, presented a check to Children in Crisis, Inc. for almost $6,000 at a ceremony on Sunday.

According to Ken Hair, CIC Executive Director, “The donation couldn’t have come at a better time! We opened the first two homes of the Children’s Neighborhood for abused, neglected and abandoned children this February and we have a critical need for funds to keep the Neighborhood open and operating.”

Mack Gay, President, CIC Board of Directors, commented, “We’re very thankful for the support of Shalimar United Methodist Church and the entire faith community. We sincerely thank the production coordinators, Logene Solberg, and Jo Yeager and the entire cast and membership for their wonderful commitment of caring to our at-risk children.”

The Children’s Neighborhood is located on Hurlburt Field Road, Ft. Walton Beach and has an emergency shelter for young children that are removed from an unsafe environment on short notice. The Neighborhood also has a group home to provide a more stable, long-term home and keep siblings from being separated. The Neighborhood will provide homes to hundreds of children each year.

The Children’s Neighborhood is Now Open!

On Janurary 27, 2008, CIC celebrated the grand opening of the Children’s Neighborhood by hosting a Grand Housewarming Party at the homes of the Chilren’s Neighborhood. It was such a wonderful opportunity to show our community the hard work and dedication put into the homes by all.

The Sheriff’s Deputy on site estimated about 600 people in attendance! CIC would like to thank the community for such a wonderful outpouring of generosity and support, we couldn’t have done it without you!

We now have the capability to provide homes and establish hope to the at risk children of our community.

The Chances were Sold and the Drawing has Taken Place

Drs. Robert and Venita Morrell were the lucky winners of the Jeep. If you see them out and about, please congratulate them on winning the Jeep.

The Morrell family very generously decided to donate the Jeep back to CIC for our organization’s use! We thank the Morrell family for making such a generous donation to Children in Crisis!

Area Designers Help Furnish the CIC Children’s Neighborhood!

DesignersThanks to great community support, the CIC Children’s Neighborhood is taking shape! Area interior designers have pitched in to help furnish the two homes that are nearing completion. The emergency shelter for abused, neglected and abandoned children and the first foster home will open soon and the entire community will be invited to the Neighborhood site for a House Warming and Ribbon Cutting on Sunday, December 9, 2007, 2:00 pm.

Ken Hair, Executive Director, Children in Crisis, commented, “I am truly amazed and very thankful for the great support from our community. The wonderful commitment from area interior designers and businesses has played a vital role in our progress. Just a few of the business that have helped us with the design, décor and furnishings of the first two homes are: Porter-Smith Designs, Inc., Infinity Flooring, Destin Lighting, Sugar Beach Interiors, Interior Detailers Inc., Shaw Industries, Dal-Tile, United Lighting and Supply Co., Cabinet Source, G & L Marble, Florida Bath & Surfaces, Gulf South Distributors, Americasmart, Palm Paper & Supply, W Design and Planning Group, Arts TV and Appliance, Independent Flooring, Lafayette Interior Fashions, Corporate Design Systems, Leigh Wright Interior Design, Inc. and many more. What a true community effort!”

Sharilyn Darnell, Past President of the CIC Board of Directors, came up with the idea of involving the design experts of our community and called on Kelly Porter-Smith of Porter-Smith Designs. Kelly formed the committee of designers who are also dedicated to helping with CIC’s vision of providing homes and establishing hope to the children in crisis of our community.

Mack Gay, President of the CIC Board of Directors pointed out, “The Children’s Neighborhood and all we’re doing for the children of our community wouldn’t have been possible without the complete support of our area businesses! From the very start, we’ve had help with the site preparation, infrastructure and construction. We are truly blessed by their efforts!”

Pictured in Photo: Brittney Welsh, Sugar Beach Interiors Inc., Robin Lowrey, Sugar Beach Interiors, Inc., Kathy Fyock, Destin Lighting, Glenda King, Interior Detailers Inc., Leisa Johnson, Infinity Flooring, Ashley Vogt, Corporate Design Systems, Mike King, Interior Detailers, Inc., Kelly Porter-Smith, Porter-Smith Designs, Inc. Leigh Wright, Leigh Wright Interior Design, Inc.