Riley rallying churches for children

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Khendra Riley spends her days calling local churches and meeting influential pastors. Some of those congregations serve over a thousand members while others fellowship with under 50.

For Riley, the size of the church doesn’t matter, only the heart of the people. They are all the same when it comes to the purpose by which she is serving. She is the new Resource Recruitment Coordinator for Eckerd Community Alternative. Her mission is to connect as many churches that will hear her to the many children in displaced situations.

There are over 4,000 children receiving services from Eckerd Community Alternative who are abused or neglected in the Tampa Bay area.  Many of these children live a life reaching for someone to love them, share with them and enjoy the simple things that many take for granted.

“I came to a point in life where it was more important for me to make a difference in someone else life,” said Riley. “Going about life and just existing is no way to live. Every day I aim to put a smile on a child’s face by connecting them to someone who will just show them love.”

Riley is not alone in this effort. Her supervisor, Laurallyn Segur, director of licensing for Eckerd Community Alternatives is a 30-year ambassador for child welfare. A collective group of organizations have also come together to champion the cause of these children known as “Churches as Champions for Children.”

It is an initiative of Eckerd Community Alternative in partnership with One Church, One Child of Florida, Heart Galleries of Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough, Directions for Living, Lutheran Service Florida, Youth & Family Alternatives, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas, 4Kids and Safe Families for Children. The initiative is designed to identify and partner with churches in an effort to find foster and adoptive homes for all foster children in the Tampa Bay area.

Pastors, churches and organizations are invited to a free luncheon to discover the many ways that you can connect with others who care and become a champion for children in our community.  The luncheon is Tues, Feb. 17 at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater Hotel, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N., St. Petersburg.  The event time is 11:30– 2 p.m.

Partner churches will be known as “Church Champions” and will receive a tool-kit of resources to help in recruiting foster and adoptive families, as well as information on helping provide much needed resources for foster children.

“Every day I wake up with a charge to protect lives of innocent children from abuse, neglect and help them heal,” said Segur. “Finding families for them makes a big impact. We never know which child will be the future president, discover the cure for cancer, and become a teacher, pastor or parent. It’s my life purpose.”

Riley shares Segur’s passion; therefore, she rally’s the churches!

For information on becoming a “Churches As Champions” or to RSVP for the luncheon, contact Diane Johnson 727-456-0600 ext. 2085 or djohnson@eckerd-eca.org

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