Children’s Home Society honors Janet Baines at luncheon

VERO BEACH – Funding from the Dyer Difference Award program, created by Tatiana and Will Dyer, enabled the Children’s Home Society (CHS) to host a Turning Lives Around Luncheon at the Vero Beach Country Club honoring long-time advocate Janet Baines. Jan Huffert told the invited guests that the luncheon was doubly celebratory personally, as it marked her one-year anniversary as CHS Treasure Coast Executive Director.

“I just want to tell you how proud I am to work with you, said Huffert. “I can’t imagine doing anything finer than helping youth and families”

Despite their lack of state or federal funding, she stressed the urgent need for Transitional Living Programs for children in the foster care system facing the grim reality of becoming homeless on their 18th birthday.  The staggeringly high percentage of homeless children in Indian River County, living in cars, camps, shelters or with friends, has jumped from 22 to 42 percent this past year.

Marta Schneider, Indian River Board Chair, spoke briefly about the R. David and I. Lorraine Thomas Child Advocate of the Year Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Children’s Home Society.

“The award recognizes those who have made a significant impact in improving the lives of homeless, neglected and abused children,” said Schneider.

The award was presented to Janet Baines, a gracious and stalwart supporter, for her unstinting devotion to the girls at Baines Hall, named in honor of Janet and her late husband Elliott.  At-risk girls, ages 11 to 17, live in a homelike setting at Baines Hall, where they are taught essential skills to enable them to become healthy, productive citizens.

Baines visits and treats the girls to lunch out every week and has become a delightful, consistent presence in the lives of those who so desperately need an optimistic role model.

“It is my great pleasure to do what we do; it’s very rewarding,” said the soft-spoken Baines, adding that she wished her husband were there to accept the award with her.

“So often we talk about children who fail, but these are the most remarkable people you will ever meet,” said Huffert, prior to introducing Youth Advisory Board members John Harrison and Melanie Dorn.

Two other young board members were unable to attend the luncheon as they were meeting with the governor and legislators in Tallahassee as Florida Youth Shine advocates.

The first male to live at the Youth Transition Center, Harrison told of his experiences as a “couch surfer” prior to entering the program.  Now 22-years-old, he is employed full-time at Dyer Automotive and has his own apartment near the center where he councils others in the transition process.

Dorn has been in the Transitional Living Program since the center opened and, with a goal toward a master’s degree, is now four credits away from receiving an associate’s degree in Human Services.

“John and I were chosen by the staff to be on the board and they asked us to choose two others,” said Dorn.  “The board is a way for us to be a voice for the program from a youth standpoint.”

“They are a shining example to each and every one of us,” said Huffert.  “There should be no such thing as throw-away kids.” {igallery 367}

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