Children’s Fund luncheon honors volunteers, founder as fund tops $100,000 in donations

By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

Deborah Coleman knows what it is like to receive help. What she wants now is to be able to give back.

The 43-year-old former special education teacher spoke during a luncheon honoring volunteers of the Maryville City Schools Family Resource Center Children’s Fund on May 17 at the Blount County Public Library.

Coleman was given assistance through the foundation in October of 2004 after she came to Maryville. She was left
homeless following a domestic violence situation and had to find a home for her three children, a pre-schooler, a
kindergartener and a fifth grader.

"I had to literally beg a place to let me have an apartment," she said.

Coleman said Etta Caldwell, director of the Maryville City Schools Family Resource Center, learned about their situation and made sure that she and her children had beds to sleep on that first night. No one at the foundation judged her or her family, she said.

Coleman said she is working to return to school and hopes to one day become a lawyer. "Then I want to be a person who helps people like those who helped me," she said.

The Children’s Fund provides resources for the Family Resource Center to meet pressing needs of the students, Maryville City Schools director Dr. Mike Dalton said.

Dalton said school systems across the state can get a state grant to establish a foundation in their system to help students when they have problems and don’t know where to turn for help. "That’s the basic purpose of Family Resource Center, to be a conduit to meet needs," Dalton said.

Children’s Fund chair Marty Black thanked Ron Ivens for his support of the Maryville Schools Family Resource Center and the Children’s Fund. "He not only got it started, but he keeps it going," she said of Ivens’ support of the Children’s Fund.
Black also thanked Etta Caldwell, director of the Maryville City Schools Family Resource Center, for her efforts. "Without Etta, I don’t think any of this would have happened," she said.

Dalton said when he started teaching in Maryville in 1982, there wasn’t a schools’ foundation or children’s fund, but there were still students with needs. Taking care of those needs often fell to the teachers. Usually there would emerge a teacher the students gravitated to, and she would take care of them, he said.

"If she couldn’t, she would pass around an envelope with instructions for teachers to give a certain amount. If you knew what was good for you, you gave what you were told," he said, as those in the room laughed.

Dalton said raising money for underpriviledged kids by passing an envelope wasn’t very effective, and it was time-consuming. "Having an organized Children’s Fund is much more effective. We can meet needs we couldn’t have before. It’s something I’m very proud of," he said.

Dalton said Ivens took it upon himself to help start the Children’s Fund. "Ron Ivens took this as a personal challenge to make sure we didn’t have kids in need," Dalton said.

Ivens recognized Marty Black for her efforts and for the work of school board chair Carolyn McAmis.

Ivens said he had been working personally to help less fortunate students for 25 years and that, at some point, filling the
number of requests became too much to handle. "I knew I had to do something," he said.

Ivens met with Dalton several times and the idea for the Children’s Fund and the Maryville Family Resource Foundation was born. They recruited Etta Caldwell to be director. "I went to Ms. Caldwell, and she took it to where it is today," Ivens said.

Caldwell also thanked the program’s unpaid personnel who help with buying the necessities students need but don’t have the money to get. "We couldn’t do this without our volunteers," she said.

Caldwell gave several examples of assistance given through the Children’s Fund. In one instance, the foundation was able to get a combination lock for a student who confided in School Resource Officer Jason Pesterfield that he didn’t have one.
In another instance, the foundation helped pay instrument rental for an underprivileged band student.

Dr. Sandra Everett, director of special education with the Maryville City School System, said the foundation helps students with everything from clothes to graduation supplies to even prom necessities. "The school experience is so much more than just the educational experience," she said. "The things that happen on the school level set the tone for entire lives. What (students) learn is giving and accepting and learning to give back."

A reading of the accounts for the Children’s Fund showed that as of this year, the fund had raised $102,000 over the life of the Children’s Fund. There was 331 donations since 2003 from 180 different donors.

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