Guest post by Shauntay Hinton, former sponsored child
Last week I had an opportunity to do something I’ve always prided myself in doing — getting people to say “yes!” At a meeting of Kiwanis Club Division 25 leadership council in Chatsworth, Calif., I was invited to tell my story of growing up as a sponsored child. I also hoped to give them another reason to foster a partnership with ChildFund.
The meeting was held at Los Toros Mexican restaurant (which has the most divine chili bean and cheese dip, btw!), and the place was jumping with football fans, first dates and family gatherings.
I was introduced to the Kiwanis Council leaders — parents, teachers, retired entrepreneurs — all volunteering their time on a Monday evening with the common goal of making a noise in the name of serving children of the world.
And as soon as the gavel hit the table, I knew there wouldn’t be a dull moment during this meeting!
As Nick Montano, VP of the division council, led the group through the agenda, there was enthusiastic banter back and forth: “How do we convince new members to get involved? How do we show them tangible proof that their commitment makes a difference here? Who’s going to decorate for the year-end holiday party — last year it looked rushed and bare!”
It was quite encouraging to see volunteers so passionately engaged in making a difference in their own communities. Just as one of the members stepped up to guarantee that this year’s holiday party committee would turn out decorations rivaled only by Rockefeller Plaza, the gavel hit again, and ChildFund was next up. Showtime!
I was given a lovely introduction by ChildFund Western Region development officer, and good friend of mine, Athena Boulgarides. My goal was simple: stand before the Kiwanis members as living proof of the power of ChildFund’s efforts in local communities right here in the United States.
No matter where I go in life — whether it’s meeting the President in the Oval Office, ringing the bell to open the New York Stock Exchange or gathering with concerned volunteers in Los Toros — I have to take a moment to marvel at how far this daughter of a single-parent school teacher has come from the sticks of Starkville, Miss.
Then after I get over myself, I make sure I tell anyone interested in what I have to say that I wouldn’t be standing before them as a former Miss USA had it not been for the early opportunity to express myself on stage in plays produced by Brickfire Project, a community outreach development program and affiliate of ChildFund.
During the Q&A, one of the Kiwanis members asked, “Is there any other way to connect with a sponsored child other than just through letters and pictures?” I was happy to tell them that ChildFund encourages hands-on sponsorship involvement by service organizations working with ChildFund on initiatives like the Brickfire Project in Starkville. That answer garnered a few smiles and head nods, and I felt I had maybe helped to connect the dots.
The meeting ended with two pledges to sponsor a child through ChildFund! As a matter of fact, I’m still beaming as I write this blog. On the 33rd day of ChildFund’s 100 Days of Yes campaign, the Kiwanis Club, Athena and I had gotten two more children closer to their chance to stand tall as living proof of how ChildFund makes a difference in local communities here in the United States and around the world!
Shauntay Hinton, a former Miss USA, is a television host and correspondent who has contributed to lifestyle and entertainment programming for King World Productions, Fox Sports, Lifetime and Twentieth Television.