Non-Profit Champions For More Dollars

They work to keep infants and children on the right development track, but with the state slashing two of their largest grants, Smith County Champions for Children is scrambling for funding.

The non-profit employs child development professionals who find quality care for kids in East Texas. The group also provides clients with developmental curriculum, child rearing advice, and rehabilitation for problematic kids.

But with the state taking away $150,000 dollars in funding, Champions for Children is having to hunt for new donor dollars.

"We're going into September scrambling to find funding for salaries to stay open and find the resources we need to keep our support programs running," says co-founder and executive director Melody Hughes.

The non-profit employs 10 full-time employees and relies heavily on volunteers. So far this year, champions has lost $40,000 in scholarship funding for students majoring in early childhood development.

The budget crunch soured a year that had started on a high note. Around March, the group moved into the historic Caldwell Mansion in Tyler. And they're new program, "Red Bear Project" was coming along. The project's founder, Mary Ann Maland, came up with the idea to counsel and rehabilitate young kids showing signs of aggressive behavior.

But come September, if funding hasn't improved, Maland's job could be on the line. She says it would be a tremendous disappointment and "the greatest loss would be for the children," who can't get this type of support anywhere else.

Meanwhile, Hughes remains optimistic and hopes the group can make up the lost funding.

"Our board formed to solve problems and to prevent problems for young children, so they could have a much brighter future," she says. "So if we're not here, we're going to have to find a way some other way."

Kerri Panchuk, reporting.