Founded less than five years ago, It Takes A Village is a nonprofit agency devoted to improving the lives of foster children in our region. The organization's CEO and Executive Director, Terry Atwater, is a former Wichita State University Basketball player from the Coach Gene Smithson era. Atwater and his team embrace Smithson's MTXE philosophy as a way of life and they pour extra effort into impacting the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our community. In this feature Atwater shares information about the program's successes with our members.
Tell us about your organization.
It Takes A Village, Inc. was founded in 2015 as a provider of foster care services through the Department of Children and Families for teenage boys and girls. We currently operate seven “In Community” single family homes where we currently house 25 teens (13 boys/12 Girls) ages 16-23. We provide youth in the foster care system and other at-risk youth with a structured environment, educational and employment opportunities, life skills development and a safe place to call home.
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you find most valuable about Chamber membership?
The ability to network and collaborate with other businesses in the Wichita and surrounding area was a key determinant in our decision to join the Chamber. Establishing and cultivating personal and professional relationships is critical to the sustainability of nonprofits, and the Chamber is a catalyst for business growth and development.
What is the best thing about working with businesses in the Wichita area?
The “caring and giving” nature of the Wichita community never ceases to amaze me! As a nonprofit, donations are critical to our sustainability and we are grateful to businesses and individuals who donate to our organization allowing us to serve the needs of teens in the foster care system. Donations allow us to provide our 25 teenage boys and girls with tangible goods and a critical intangible component….hope.
Describe a recent success/win.
We opened our first home for teen girls in April of 2018. We believe that teen girls need the same opportunities as our teen boys. The challenges associated with traumatized teens is at the core of our desire to assist them. We worked with two young ladies who never imagined that they would ever receive their high school diploma. Through the efforts of our dedicated team, not only did these two young ladies graduate from high school (on time) but they are both now freshman college students at Emporia State University and Cowley College. There is no payment that could substitute for the look on the faces of these two young ladies as we loaded up the vehicles and they headed off to college. From foster care to college student…simply amazing! We are so proud of these two young ladies, as well as our current 12 female and 13 male residents.
To what do you attribute your success?
Our dedicated and caring team at It Takes A Village, Inc. is undoubtedly the reason for our success as we assist foster care teens with the realization of their goals. Many members of our team have sacrificed the opportunity to earn greater personal revenue by pursuing other employment avenues. We often say at It Takes A Village Inc. that from a professional perspective we have transitioned from “income to outcomes.”
Do you have an upcoming project that might interest our members?
Our current project is a vision for the creation of a Community Health and Education Resource Center. Our goal is to provide a “community hub” with a collaborative cross-sector of diverse community professionals experienced in social, education, employment, health and justice services that will assist in keeping families intact. We will offer innovative holistic programs to support and strengthen children, youth, adults, seniors and ultimately families. We will build on their strengths, access supportive services and work collectively to nurture and grow individuals and embrace positive family development and sustainability.
What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
The monthly Sunrise Scrambler! The opportunity to network with various business leaders in the Wichita Community is invaluable.
What is something people may not know about you or your organization?
I’m a former Wichita State University Basketball team walk-on player under Coach Gene Smithson. Coach Smithson preached “MTXE” Mental Toughness eXtra Effort, and he made sure that we understood the importance of giving back with “extra effort,” regardless of our past situations and circumstances. “MTXE” has become a way of life for us as we strive to impact the lives of a very vulnerable segment of our population, foster care teens.
What has Chamber membership brought to you and your organization?
The opportunity to learn and share experiences and develop relationships with successful business owners who operate locally and world-wide. Collaboration is also a critical factor in business success and the Chamber is a wonderful vehicle of opportunity.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
We look forward to impacting lives both inside the foster care network, and others as well on a nationwide basis. We are really excited about the future impact of our Community Health & Education Resource Center, and its potential impact on the Wichita Community and beyond!
What about your organization are you most passionate?
Undoubtedly waking up each morning and knowing that you have the borderless opportunity to positively impact the lives of youth in the foster care system, and soon many others in the Wichita and surrounding area, and beyond!