Talk Derby to Me benefit has best year yet

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

The annual Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser for the Family Success Center has had its best year yet, according to Executive Director Emma Hazelwood Clapp.

Though the exact number is not officially in, Clapp said the attendance was better than the center had anticipated.

“The weather was great this year,” Clapp said. “That really helped us. We had not so great weather last year. The community really showed up for this one.”

Family Success Center, which was named the Chamber’s 2022 Non-Profit of the Year, serves Etowah County with numerous programs, such as financial stability classes, parenting classes, summer camp, free haircuts, mental health counseling, child abuse prevention, healthy relationship coaching, domestic violence prevention and maternity care.

Talk Derby to Me, the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, directly funds the various programs and projects throughout the year.
The event, held at Brunson Farms on May 6, included a silent auction with items donated from McNair Jewelers, Twigs and Roses, The Stone Market, Lil’ Burtons and more. The event also had a bourbon auction with items donated from Nick Thacker, Randall Gillilane, Scott Hindsman, Johnny Cross, Keith Davis, Glen Porter and Mark Condra.

The sponsors for the event were Devan Lowe, Riverview Regional Medical Center, University of Alabama, Craig Lipscomb, Gadsden City Board of Education, Julia Nolen Knox, Etowah Commissioner Tim Ramsey, Coosa Behavioral Services, Team One Automotive, Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, Katie Maples, Impact Realty and Chicken Salad Chick.

“We couldn’t have done this without all of our sponsors,” Clapp said. “Their support of what we do is incredible. They are giving so much for their community.”

In addition to the event’s sponsors, Clapp bragged about the Family Success Center’s team.

“This team is amazing,” Clapp said. “Every single one of them works their butts off for this county. They are in schools, they are giving haircuts, they are helping people who need help. They are organizing events and fundraisers. They are incredible. My job is to make sure they have what they need to be able to have a good impact on the community.”

When asked how they get everything done, Clapp said it was not easy.

“We don’t sleep,” Clapp joked.

Even though the work is demanding, Clapp said it was necessary.

“Everyone here is passionate about what they do. The truth is, any of them could have been someone who needed our help, for one reason or another… when you see the things we see and know the difference you can make, it is hard to not care about it. We all say that we shouldn’t take things home with us, but we all do. We all have families we think about when we leave the building.”

The center is hoping to implement new projects like expanding programs to different cities and schools.

“We’ve been meeting with different city leaders in the county to do a needs assessment,” said Katie Bohannon, resource development director at Family Success Center. “We have met with a few and have meetings planned to meet with the rest. We are trying to find what the community needs the most.”
Clapp added that the center usually had a good idea of what the communities might need, but that it is “always a good idea to stay informed on changes in the community’s needs.”

“We usually have a finger on the pulse of the community,” Clapp said. “We are a one-stop shop for families. People assume that it is just single mothers we help, and sure, we help them too, but we do so much more. We offer mental health counseling, financial counseling, healthy relationship classes, parenting classes… the only thing we can’t do is emergency services, like paying your electric bill. We simply don’t have that kind of funding.”
Clapp said that even though the center doesn’t have the funds to pay someone’s bills, it still helps individuals by referring them to the right places.

“We know where to send them,” Clapp said. “We know who can help them and we have a good relationship with different churches and charities that offer assistance in the ways that we can’t.”

The center offers the following programs: Etowah County Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Program for Couples; Etowah County Youth Relationship Initiative; Financial Stability Coach; Safe and Successful Child Abuse Prevention Program; PEACE Program; Prevention Talks: A Community Based Child Abuse Awareness Program; HOPE Family Counseling; HOPE Trauma Counseling; HOPE Children’s Counseling; Group Counseling for children; Supervised Visitation Program; The Inclusive Needs (IN) Program; The C.A.T.I. Project; Successful Snips; Calming Clips; Etowah County – Strengthening Families Early Childhood Initiative; Community Garden; Annual Thanksgiving Bag Giveaway; Annual Halloween Trunk or Treat; Annual Easter Egg Hunt; Annual Christmas Assistance; Food Pantry; Annual Coat Drive; KIDS KAMP; Family Success Center Scholarship; J.C. Success Scholarship for Non-Traditional Students; Successful Teaching Award; and East Gadsden/EMA Warming/Cooling/Hydration Station.

In addition to the programs, the center has in-house partners including 2nd Chance, Inc. – Safety Planning, Court, and Legal Advocacy; Legal Services of Alabama; My Care Alabama; Substance Abuse Council; E2 Program; Children’s Policy Council of Etowah County; United Way’s Success By 6 Helping our Parents Excel Program; United Abilities Hand in Hand Early Intervention; Kids and Kin, Etowah County; and Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Service – Early Invention Clinics.

Funding for the various programs comes from the annual Talk Derby to Me fundraiser, grants and the upcoming rummage sale and murder mystery night.

The rummage sale will take place at the Family Success Center building located at 821 East Broad Street from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 27. The event is cash only. Clothes will be $1, shoes will be between $1-2, dish sets will be $5, and bedding, books and phone cases will be a quarter. The rummage sale will directly benefit the center’s Kids Kamp.

The Murder Mystery Dinner Party fundraiser will be held June 3 at 5 p.m. at the Rainbow City Community Center. Tickets will be on sale until May 30, but Clapp said tickets are selling fast. This is the center’s first ever interactive murder mystery event. Ticket buyers will be assigned a character and given outfit guidelines before the dinner party. This fundraiser will support the center’s food pantry and upcoming Kids Kamp.

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