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Bill Kirby Jr.: Women’s Giving Circle makes a difference in this community

This was a day when an organization showed us its heart and soul for children.


Call these women the best of our community.

They give because they care.

They care because they have hearts for others, especially children.

“We are doing so good,” Amy Sparks was saying about the School of Hope that she and her husband, Rob, founded in 2017 for autistic children and in memory of their autistic son Jarred, who died at age 19 in 2011.

And Tuesday was another good day for Sparks as her school on Burns Street downtown received a boost of $2,965 from the Women’s Giving Circle of Cumberland County, which held its annual scorecard breakfast at the Highland Presbyterian Church fellowship hall.

The money will help the school purchase 30 adaptive learning materials and books for students. The school will also purchase a license to reproduce more learning materials that Women’s Giving Circle member Libby Daniel says “will be a permanent library year after year.”

“It’s going to provide the opportunity to buys books that specifically address the needs for autistic kids,” Sparks said. “These books are specifically for students with autism. They will allow kids to interact with books and their parents. I was one of those mamas who wanted to sit down with my son and read a book.”

Other nonprofits that received grants were:

  • $18,011 to Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s Emergency Assistance Program Reefer Truck Project for a refrigerated vehicle that will almost double Meals On Wheels’ annual distribution from 118,000 to 250,000 for food donations and fresh fruit;
  • $10,000 to the Fayetteville Technical Community College Foundation – H.O.P.E. Childcare Support and Tuition Assistance to fund a child care staff member;
  • $9,000 to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina’s Foster Parent Recruitment Program for families living in Cumberland County;
  • $7,500 to Connections of Cumberland County’s Day Resource Center Support for single women and children for one-stop case management;
  • $4,044 to the Methodist University Speaking Senses to benefit those with attention deficit disorder, Down syndrome and other developmental issues;
  • $3,100 to the Armed Services YMCA’s Baby Bundles and Child Care Program with 1,200 Baby Bundles distributed through Womack Army Medical Center;
  • And $2,300 to the St. Ann Neighborhood Youth Center’s after-school and summer reading program for the deaf and hard of hearing.

A judge’s perspective

The 2021-22 grant cycle was dedicated to foster care, literacy, child abuse and life skills.

You could learn much.

That Cumberland County “has very high numbers” when it comes to foster care, where children are under legal custody of the N.C. Department of Social Services. That 22% of adults in this county lack literacy skills. That girls between 15 to 19 years old “go from being a student to a mom,” and that child abuse, to include human trafficking, is a crime of predators without conscience.

“They look for ages 13 to 18,” guest speaker Toni King, a District Court judge for the 12th Judicial District of Cumberland County, told nearly 100 people at the breakfast, including state Sen. Kirk deViere, Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins and Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Glenn Adams, social workers and child abuse advocates.

It’s all about sex, she said. It’s about drugs.

It’s about crime.

It’s about young innocence lost.

And Cumberland County has more than its share of human trafficking.

This judge had our attention.

“We’re on the I-95 corridor,” said King, who began and presides over Human Trafficking Court. “We have the No. 1 prosecution in the state, and thanks to Billy West (the Cumberland County district attorney) for that.”

The judge gave us some more sobering thoughts for consideration.

“We had a mother recruiting a daughter,” she said. “A father recruiting a son. An uncle, a niece. We had a bright student. She got sucked into it.”

Now that student, King told us, is a heroin addict.

Human trafficking predators can be cunning, the judge told us, when it comes to their prey. And victims can find themselves charged with crimes as a result of predators.

“They’ve bought them clothes and shoes,” she said. “They took them to Cross Creek Mall. Some do it with money. And the recruiters – the pimps – are making money.”

King looked toward deViere as she talked about Human Trafficking Court.

“I said, ‘We need money,’” she said. “We were awarded $300,000.”

She asked Adams for money from the county to hire a Human Trafficking Court coordinator.

“He got us money for two years,” she said. “It’s nothing we can do alone.”

And that includes parents.

“There are things you can do to monitor your children,” King said. “As parents, you want to give them freedom, but you need to monitor them.”

Human Trafficking Court, she said, provides counseling and hope for victims.

“We’re not there to punish them,” she said. “We are there to get them back to society.”


March is Women’s History Month and 116 members of the Women’s Giving Circle such as Joelle Hutaff, Wendy Vonnegut, Libby Daniel and Patty Collie carry on the work of founders Terri Union, Christin Bellian, Mary Lynn Bryan, Michelle Courie, Alisa Debnam, Laura Devan, Margaret Dickson, Jean Harrison, Lucy Jones, Sarah Moorman, Kaki Van Sickle, Cynthia Wilson and Denise Wyatt.

The Women’s Giving Circle has awarded $706,000 since 2009 to enrich the lives of women and children in this community, and Cumberland County is the better for the group every day of every year.

Those caring ways were not lost Tuesday on Amy Sparks with the School of Hope.

“I say thank you so much for the opportunity,” Sparks said, “and for believing in our children.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., Women's Giving Circle, grants, community, women and children, human trafficking