Women Who Care award $2,500 to youth council, SMC

Published 8:28 am Monday, October 19, 2015

Founding members Judge Susan Dobrich and Ordeana Sala, left, and Eileen Toney and Kim MacGregor, right, flank Sarah Mathews, Cass County Youth Council president. (Submitted photo)

Founding members Judge Susan Dobrich and Ordeana Sala, left, and Eileen Toney and Kim MacGregor, right, flank Sarah Mathews, Cass County Youth Council president. (Submitted photo)

In its first two years, Cass County 100 Women Who Care contributed more than $25,000 to charity.

The organization celebrated its second anniversary at Southwestern Michigan College Mathews Conference Center West on the Dowagiac campus Oct. 14 by voting to award $2,500 to Cass County Youth Council, represented by President Sarah Mathews, Family Court prosecutor and SMC first lady.

Cass County 100 Women Who Care meets quarterly across the county and has benefited the Borgess Tree of Love; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church food pantry; Dowagiac Area History Museum; Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) who speak for abused and neglected children in child protective proceedings; the Salvation Army of Cass County; Beckwith Theatre in memory of Karen Pugh, former SMC dean of admissions; and the Underground Railroad Society.

At quarterly meetings which take place in Marcellus, Edwardsburg, Cassopolis and Dowagiac, three charities are drawn at random.

After a brief presentation on each, the group votes to choose that quarter’s recipient.

Youth Council is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the Children’s Trust Fund to advocate for the health, safety and welfare of children by supporting and funding programs and services that promote prevention of child abuse and neglect.

“Each year, Youth Council strives to identify specific areas of need for the children of Cass County and to tailor its programs and services around those needs,” Mathews said. “This year, the Youth Council focused on three core program initiatives: promoting safe sleep practices through educational materials (the ABCs of sleep — Alone, on Back, in a Crib) and distribution of Pack N Plays to Cass County infants in need of a safe sleep environment; providing education on dental neglect through distribution of educational materials and dental hygiene supplies to children and families; and providing training to adults in a position to help prevent child abuse and neglect.”

“With these three programs, Youth Council hopes to not only save families from experiencing the death of a child from an unsafe sleep environment and to keep local children from experiencing the physical pain that can come with dental neglect, but to also begin building a strong network of service providers and adults in the community willing to work together to protect Cass County’s most valuable asset — our children,” Mathews said in the same room April 21 at Youth Council’s sixth annual Child Abuse Prevention Month luncheon.

Service providers and community parents heard from state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, on Erin’s Law, 2013 legislation which lets schools take measures to help prevent child sexual abuse.

Keynote speaker Nancy Diehl, past State Bar of Michigan president, talked about the mixed message telling children they control their bodies, then making them display affection at family gatherings.

“Don’t let people snatch kisses and hugs from kids, tousle their hair or pinch a cheek,” said Diehl, who retired in 2009 after 28 years with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. “They have personal space like we do. You getting mad if they’re not nice confuses them. Actions speak louder than words.”

“Yesterday alone, I did three emergency removal hearings for 11 children,” Mathews said. “We are pushing the limits on foster homes and really need to address prevention. If Children’s Trust Fund gives us $5,000 for specific programs we tell them we want to focus on, we are responsible to get in-kind matching donations toward that grant, so we could have a $10,000 impact on Cass County.”

In Cass County from 2004-14, 14 sleep-related infant deaths occurred.

Nothing but the baby should be placed in the sleep area.

No pillows, mesh bumpers, comforters, stuffed animals or loose bedding.

Use sleep sacks or sleepers instead of blankets.

Always put the baby to sleep on his or her back.

They should not be in bed with another person.

Smoking increases the risk of unexplained infant death, while pacifiers help reduce the risk, according to the Department of Human Services.

Cass County Women Who Care’s next meeting in mid-January takes place at the COA in Cassopolis.

After the business meeting, Mathews led the women on a tour of the recently-renovated William P.D. O’Leary Building into a science facility.