Charity Ball raises funds for essential services

West Chester Friends Association – helping homeless children since 1822

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By Kim Chiomento, Staff Writer, The Times


Friends supporters Meghan & Mark Thompson (West Chester) and Michele & Brian Boreman (West Chester) enjoy some time together

WEST CHESTER – The Friends Association for Care and Protection of Children held its 7th annual Charity Ball Saturday night at West Chester Golf & Country Club.  Hundreds of supporters attended the black-tie affair. The Ball is the Friends’ largest fundraiser and helps provide the resources needed to continue their year-round mission of assisting Chester County families in need.

The Friends Association’s mission dates back to 1822; and it is the oldest child welfare agency in Pennsylvania.  Since its inception, The Friends Association has adapted and grown to assist 80 families, on average annually, through two programs: Emergency Family Shelter and Homeless Prevention Programs.  In 2014, 177 children had their homelessness ended thanks to the Friends’ efforts.

The festive evening included butlered hors d’oeuvres, beautifully presented dinner and dessert stations, music, dancing, and live and silent auctions.  The Friends honored John Braceland and Rose & Fran Marinelli with the ‘Friend of the Community Award’ for their exceptional commitments to the local community and Friends Association.

Despite Chester County being the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, and ranked 24th wealthiest in the nation, there are still more than 32,000 individuals living in poverty within the County’s boundaries.  Maintaining stable housing remains one of the greatest challenges for these people.

For poverty stricken families, just one unexpected expense like a large medical or utility bill, car repair, or needing an essential appliance replaced can offset cash flow so greatly that it becomes the catalyst for them to fall behind on rent or mortgage.  With no ‘nest egg’ to pay for the problem and break the cycle of late payments, this event eventually compounds to the point of the family losing their home.  This is further complicated by the high property values within the County and related challenge of finding affordable housing for those trying to get back on their feet.

When this occurs, children are often the unintended and greatest victims of family homelessness.  The statistics are sobering: homeless children are more likely to get sick, be hungry and are at higher risk for suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorders.  These children are also more likely to repeat a grade and exhibit developmental delays.

“We have had a wonderful year at Friends Association – 94% of the families living in our Emergency Family Shelter moved into home of their own,” says Friends Executive Director, Catherine Friedman, “And, 90% of our Homeless Prevention Program families remained stable in their homes after our assistance ended.”

The Friends’ Emergency Family Shelter Program provides shelter to families with children for 60-90 days; while also connecting them to community resources that assist them in taking back control of their financial situation and also provides families with emotional counseling.


Restaurateur & Ball Co-Sponsor Dave Magrogan (center left) enjoy festivities with friends Melissa Zirolli (left) and Paola & Frank Fusaro

A licensed social worker is assigned and provides comprehensive case management; including investigating what issues led to the family’s housing instability and works to ensure that these issues are firmly addressed.  The Friends Association provides 35% of the general emergency shelter spaces in Chester County for families with children.

The Homeless Prevention Program takes a slightly different approach and provides rental assistance and case management services to families who are coming from the Emergency Family Shelter or have been evicted from their homes.  Both families and landlords reach to the Friends when eviction is imminent; and work together to prevent this from happening whenever feasible.  The Friends provide both rental assistance and case management for 12-18 months.

Friedman attributes the success of the Friends Association’s efforts to “the many dedicated families we work with and the first-rate services we strive to provide.  We couldn’t do any of this work without our donors, volunteers and friends; who take our mission of preventing and ending homelessness for families from a dream to reality.”

For more information about the Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children, to donate or volunteer, please visit:

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