This is a bittersweet letter for me to write. It is also a difficult one because I know full well that no words can fully capture the deep gratitude I have for every single staff, board member, donor, volunteer, supporter, colleague and partner who have made my journey as CEO of Hopeful Horizons so rich and gratifying. More importantly, each of you have been integral in the growth and success of Hopeful Horizons to live into our mission to Protect, Treat and Prevent child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.
When I walked into the office of then Hope Cottage back in 2003, I was a naïve executive director who was deeply passionate about the mission of the organization but clueless about the challenges that faced a dying organization. We had three staff members serving five counties with a budget of $225,000 and a recent history of embezzlement. Funders had lost trust and pulled out their funding. I remember the days we could not make pay roll and had to borrow from board members.
Yet the community did not give up on us. Individuals who believed in our cause stepped up their support through volunteering and financial contributions. With the change of leadership, funders gave us a second chance and provided much needed funding so that critical services to child abuse and rape victims can continue. Partnering agencies collaborated with us because they saw the value of a multi-disciplinary team approach in handling child abuse cases. Slowly but surely, we began to see a much more hopeful horizon.
In 2005, Hope Cottage changed its name to Hope Haven of the Lowcountry and received national accreditation as a Children’s Advocacy Center. We received major funding from the Duke Endowment to expand services and became a pilot site for a state-wide project to disseminate evidence based mental health services to abused children and their families.
By 2010, we had more than doubled our budget. The upward trajectory continued as Hope Haven further professionalized our services and developed a stellar group of staff members who implemented evidence-based programs and services that are effective and showed clear positive results in the lives of victims. We partnered with CAPA and CODA to form the Abuse Prevention Coalition to increase our capacity and impact to do prevention work. We executed a successful capital campaign in 2013 to expand services with the help of the Wardle Family Foundation.
The highlight of my journey in more recent years was the bold and visionary step we took to begin looking at the intersection of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. Kristin Dubrowski, the executive director of CODA, and I have long dreamed of the possibility of merging CODA and Hope Haven. Who knew we would be crazy enough to actually do it! With the support and leadership of both Boards, the merger became a reality in 2017.
Hopeful Horizons has grown by leaps and bounds since the merger. With the generous help from the Wexford Charitable Foundation, we expanded our reach by establishing a satellite office in Bluffton. We restructured the organization to hire key positions that will ensure long term sustainability, such as the new Director of Grants and Evaluations, thanks to the support of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, and a new Chief Development Officer to give full-time focus on our donors and supporters. More recently, we partnered with Solicitor Duffie Stone to establish a Victims Services Center in Okatie so that victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault will be better served under one roof and under a system of collaboration that can pave the way for a much more victim centered approach.
Under the competent and capable leadership of our next CEO, Kristin Dubrowski, the horizons continue to be hopeful! She is the right leader for this new chapter. I consider it a gift to be able to close this chapter with absolutely zero regrets. The Board is strong, our staff is stellar, our programs are cutting edge, our volunteers are ever so dedicated, and our community is even stronger than it was 15 years ago. Our budget in 2019 stands at $3.8 million.
Whatever role you play in the life of Hopeful Horizons, know that YOU make hope happen every day for victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. Together we are ending abuse and changing lives right here in the Lowcountry!
With Much Gratitude,
Shauw Chin Capps