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Children's home project gets donation from Prince Albert

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
July 11, 2001
Award winning actress Sela Ward's efforts to raise awareness about the needs of neglected and abused children have gone global.
Recently, the Meridian native hosted an event broadcast from Monaco and presented by QVC, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the Tartikoff Foundation. In appreciation, Prince Albert gave $100,000 to the Hope For Children Foundation here in Meridian.
Looking for a permanent place
The donation was another step toward Ward's goal of creating the "Orphanage of the 21st Century" on the old Masonic Home property. Using private and state money, Ward wants to create a permanent place for homeless children to call home complete with full social services.
Ward hopes the home will create a "blueprint" that others can copy, ultimately replacing the current foster care system that she points out is not working. And while Prince Albert's contribution furthers the cause, the Meridian native points out that more must be done.
At least $500,000 is needed to complete the renovation of the Masonic Home property, according executive director Carrie Ponder.
Project needs more money
Ward already has done a lot.
Working with Lisa Paulsen, chief executive officer of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Ward secured a $1.5 million grant from Kentucky Fried Chicken that was used to purchase the old Masonic Home.
Another gift from the Riley Foundation enabled Hope for Children to start hiring staff. Ward said others also have contributed money to the project.
When opened, each cottage will house 14 children. Total capacity will be 70 children; Ward hopes that number will grow. "We have room (on the grounds) for more buildings," she said.
Once the home opens, the estimated annual budget will run about $1.5 million. Some of that will come from the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.
Also, the children likely will receive Medicaid money. And state Attorney General Mike Moore has promised funds from the tobacco fund.
Still, Ward said, "that won't be enough." She noted that local support will be needed to create an endowment which will fill the gaps.
Ward wants to help children
Ward said she believes strongly in helping abused and neglected children find a place to call home.
She said she has been encouraged by the response from the local community to Hope For Children.
Fund-raising projects are ongoing. Just last week, Hope For Children raised nearly $8,000 from a rummage sale. The foundation is also one of the birdie charities at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic PGA tournament this fall in Madison.
Besides that, others have offered to schedule benefit concerts, golf tournaments, a 10K run and professional services. People also have offered donate carpentry and gardening work on the grounds.
The foundation has opened its office in the old Masonic Home cafeteria, and the Peavey House will open one of the five cottages some time this summer.
Work on the other four cottages will be starting soon, Ward said.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.
DID YOU KNOW?
The name "Hope For Children" will have to change soon because, unbeknownst to local officials, an organization in Georgia already uses it.
Actress Sela Ward, who founded the Meridian-based organization to provide a permanent home for abused and neglected children, said she wants to keep the word "hope" in the logo.
If you have an idea for a new name, call executive director Carrie Ponder at 553-8660.

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