Fannin County Children’s Center, who operates the county’s group of Court Appointed Special Advocates, child advocacy center and lead stigma reduction efforts, was in Grayson County this week to receive some grant money.

Children’s Center Executive Director Sandy Barber said the organization has seen significant growth in recent years due to consistently increasing demand for children’s services. This demand peaked in 2018 when the organization served double the number of clients as it had the previous year with more than 250.

That is why being one of the 19 area organizations to receive money from the Texoma Health Foundation’s grant donations was important. This year, more than $631,000 in grants will be given out to local non profits.

“Our funding from Texoma Health Foundation really funds these three things that we do at the children’s center,” Barber said.

This represents the 12th year for the grants, which in recent years have focused heavily on mental health programs. For this year, organizers saw an increase in demand for funding, with 13 new applicants to the program.

“This year there were over $2 million in requests, so the demand has increased a lot,” said Shunnay Gilmore, who oversees relations and foundation giving for THF. “The need has increased tremendously; every year we see the need for mental health services across all of our partner organizations.”

Of the 19 winners, who will be presented with funding agreements throughout the week in a series of meetings with similar organizations. The winners for this year include three applicants who were awarded funding for the first time, representatives said.

The increase was significant enough that funding sources called to confirm the demand on grant applications, Barber said.

Through its CASA arm, the center provides special advocates for children who are going through the foster care program to ensure that their needs are met. Each child is appointed a volunteer advocate, and currently the organization has about 40 advocates.

Still, demand is high enough that currently three children do not have volunteer advocates and their cases are instead handled by staff, Barber said.

“We are working to get back to 100 percent of our kids with our kids,” Barber said.

Through the advocacy center, the organization works with area stakeholders and therapists provide therapy to children who have suffered abuse. Currently there is a waiting list of about 22 children waiting for therapy services.

Additionally, the organization provides training in the identification of abuse and how to report it.

In addition to the nearly $10,000 the center received from THF, Barber said it also recently received a donation of about eight acres of land for the purposes of building a new children’s center. This donation comes as the organization has faced crowding amid the increase in services and demand.

“We have been going, especially over the past two years, with a facilities team that is actively looking at what buildings exist,” she said.

The new center will be located in Bonham near the high school. The organization still needs to hire an architect, complete plans and fund raise for the project, she said.

“We have a long way to go, but this is a significant step forward,” she said.

Another organization that received funding through THF for 2020 programs was the Grant Halliburton Foundation, who have previously worked in the region on juvenile mental health causes and suicide prevention including the annual Community Behavioral Health Conference and programs with local school districts.

Over the past year, the foundation had outreach of nearly 49,000 individuals including nearly 7,000 students across Texoma.

The Grant Halliburton Foundation received $40,000 toward the implementation of its Hope Squad Program in schools across the region. The program encourages children to look out for classmates who might be experiencing stress, trauma or other issues.

“We have a lot of interest in the region to implement the Hope Squad program but there are fees, hard costs that are associated with each school,” Grant Halliburton Foundation President Kevin Hall said.

At the beginning of the program, students in grades four through 12 are asked to name three of their peers who they think they could turn to if they had a problem and needed to talk to someone. Once those votes are tallied, the students with the highest vote count will go on to be a member of the hope squad and receive additional training.

“Kids effectively become the eyes and ears of their classmates,” Hall said.