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For their service to foster children and families in the Ozarks, Bill and Virginia Darr were named recipients of the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Mike Smith has the story:
Community Foundation of the Ozarks
Date: December 5, 2005
The 2005 Humanitarian of the Year award was awarded to Bill and Virginia Darr by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks at its sixteenth annual Humanitarian of the Year Award Luncheon. An independent committee under the auspices of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce selected the Darrs for their work with Families for Children, a foster care assistance program.
The Darrs' service to foster children and families was greatly inspired by John Harp, a fellow Humanitarian. Harp and his work with the Foster Parents Program was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award in 1998.
Families for Children was established in 2001 to address the critical shortage of foster homes in Greene County. Bill and Virginia Darr were instrumental in developing the program and drove the fundraising efforts. In Greene County alone, there are 650 foster children and 120 licensed foster homes. At the request of the Greene County Division of Family Services, Families for Children will solicit, recruit, support and maintain foster families from the congregations of area churches*.
Families for Children has now added Kids' Closet and Pack-A-Bag to support the effort. Pack-A-Bag provides duffel bags and backpacks filled with age appropriate personal items to children entering foster care. Kids' Closet provides new clothing twice a year to Greene County foster children. It helps to supplement the clothing allowance allocated by the state and is completely dependent upon donations. More than 1,000 children have been served since it opened.
The Darrs work does not stop with foster children. Bill and Virginia have also contributed greatly to Missouri State University through numerous scholarships and the William H. Darr Agricultural Center.
Donna Jones of the Council of Churches nominated Bill and Virginia Darr for this award. The nomination from Donna Jones says, "Bill and Virginia Darr have been thoughtful and caring citizens who recognize that giving back to the community is a major part of their own lives."
A letter of recommendation from the late Ken Coleman, formerly Resident Director at Boys and Girls Town of Missouri states, "Bill and Virginia and their family have made a lasting impact on the children for which Boys and Girls Town of Missouri cares. They are sincere, concerned individuals when it comes to caring for children from the crib to college and beyond."
The Humanitarian of the Year award was established by Springfield's Jewell Thompson Schweitzer to "honor someone in our community who has, at great personal sacrifice, extended services, time and resources towards helping others, and to recognize the cause and work of such individuals." Annually, the fund makes possible a cash award of $5,000 to be divided equally among the Humanitarian and charities of the individual's choice.
NOTE: The Darrs were unable to attend the luncheon today due to a death of a friend. The Darrs' children accepted the award. Tom Slaight, son-in-law, announced that the $5,000 Humanitarian cash award will be given to Council of Churches, earmarked for Families for Children. The Darrs will make matching grants to Boys and Girls Town of Missouri and the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch.
* According to the www.ccozarks.org/familiesforchildren