Guest Bloggers

Heroes, Hope & History in the Making

Chris Shenep

Guest Blog by Chris Shenep, Executive Director – Centers for Youth & Families Foundation


As the oldest continuously operating non-profit in the state, the roots of Centers for Youth & Families can first be traced back to 1884 when a young mother took the initiative to care for abandoned children and youth who needed it the most. Decades later, our founder, Elizabeth Mitchell probably had no idea of the lasting impact she would have in the lives of children and youth.

Since then, our organization has grown from serving only a few to thousands of children and youth each year. Programs and services include community education classes for parents, in-home visitation programs, youth runaway shelter, teaching teens to make smart decisions and build essential life skills, support for victims of human trafficking, therapeutic foster families…and so many other important services…working with children, youth, and adults ages 0-26.

And so, it’s become an annual tradition to celebrate our historical past and bright future at our signature fundraising event, EVOLVE. To keep in tradition of our transformation in meeting the needs of those we serve – our theme changes each year. Past themes include Rio Carnival, Winter’s Night, Chinese New Year and A Night in Oz. This year, EVOLVE was themed Rooted in the South. We honored our 2017 Hero of Hope Ellon Cockrill, who has been a champion of our children since 1978. Today, Ellon is still one of the biggest champions that our children have ever known.

Fellow Centers’ supporter and past Chairman of the Board Donna Kay McLarty offers this eloquent quote on what a volunteer like Ellon Cockrill means to local philanthropy, “Great ideas and great institutions start with great individuals–and Ellon Cockrill has been indispensable to the Centers for Youth and Families’ success. She was present at the creation, working to stitch three organizations together to create The Centers, preserving what was special and unique about each while helping to forge something that was truly greater than the sum of its parts. Just as impressive has been the continuity she has provided. Her ongoing commitment has helped ensure that The Centers founding vitality and culture have flourished in all the years since.”

We’re proud to report that thanks to the generosity of many loyal Inviting Arkansas readers, EVOLVE 2017 was the most successful fundraiser we’ve ever held. For the 4th straight year, we had a record breaking turnout with over 700 supporters coming out and raising $300,000 for our kids.

As we say THANKS to all donors and volunteers for making last year one of our most successful years to date, we are working just as hard to ensure that support continues in the months to come. Along with your financial support, our children and youth are in constant need of in-kind donations such as books, toys and games along with socks, underwear, blankets and suitcases.

These donations can help our children and youth overcome trauma, experience happiness, and find hope.

We can’t do it without YOU. Please save the date for important events in the year ahead – 3rd Annual Family Fun Fest (July 6th) at Big Rock Mini Golf & Fun Park, 27th Annual Centers Classic Golf Tournament (October 9th) chaired by Andrew Carroll & Josh Pettus and EVOLVE 2018 (January 27th) at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Special thanks to Inviting Arkansas for serving as EVOLVE Presenting Media Sponsor.

To make a donation and support Centers for Youth & Families, please call The Centers Foundation at (501) 666-9436, visit us online at or text @CFYF to 52014.

Inviting Arkansas

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