- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - The morning after Glenn Poshard lost the Illinois governor’s race to George Ryan in 1998, his wife, Jo, had a question for him: “What are we going to do now?”

As Jo tells it, Glenn paused a few seconds and answered that he wanted to do something to help children.

Glenn, a former state senator and U.S. congressman, first developed a passion for helping abused and neglected children in the mid-‘60s, when he worked at an orphanage while serving in the Army in Korea.

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“That had sort of lingered over the years, and Jo, having been a teacher for 30-some-odd years, had witnessed a lot of these children (who had been abused),” Glenn said.

The couple wasted no time mourning Glenn’s gubernatorial defeat. John A. Logan College offered to provide an office space for the organization, and the Poshard Foundation was born.

“We don’t usually look back and think, ‘what if.’ So we wanted to be as constructive as we could, as soon as we could,” Glenn said.

Over the past 18 years, the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children has established itself as a vital resource for children in crisis who have been denied help through the usual channels.

The all-volunteer organization receives no federal or state support, working with social service agencies in Illinois’ southernmost 23 counties to provide a financial safety net for those times when traditional funding falls through.

“In the beginning of the Foundation, I don’t think we knew exactly how it would evolve. We only knew that our mission was to help abused children and abandoned and neglected children in Southern Illinois, and to help prevent child abuse,” Jo said.

Since those early days, the Foundation has amassed a long list of achievements. At its annual fall fundraiser at John A. Logan College, the organization rakes in the bulk of its yearly donations, which are later distributed to regional agencies in the form of grants.

Another key area of the Foundation’s work is providing education on child abuse through seminars, workshops and community training programs.

“If a community’s not owning the problem, they can’t solve the problem, and we give them the kind of education and training where they can own it and feel good about it in order to solve it,” Glenn said.

The Foundation has also taken on several large building projects over the years. In 2003, Glenn rounded up labor union volunteers to help build a new, badly needed shelter for women and children in Cairo that was valued at $600,000.

“The women and children’s shelter in Cairo was an old, dilapidated firetrap of a house. It wasn’t suitable to have anybody in it, even for a night,” Glenn said.

On the first day the new shelter was open, workers received a call from Massac Memorial Hospital in Metropolis.

“They wanted to know the address of our shelter because a young lady had just delivered a child in their hospital, they didn’t have a home, and this was going to be their first home - our shelter,” Glenn said. “And they needed the shelter name and address to put on the child’s birth certificate.

“That was crushing, you know?”

The Foundation has relied on volunteer labor from union workers for some of its other building projects, such as the overhaul of the United Methodist Children’s Home cottages in Mount Vernon, which is currently underway.

“If people know there’s a need, and you know those folks and you know who to talk to, they can bring unbelievable amounts of professional service to it,” Glenn said.

“That, really, in my opinion, is one of his many talents and gifts, is bringing people together to make things happen,” Jo said.

In its day-to-day operations, the Foundation receives a wide range of requests from social workers, schools and churches from all over the area. It has funded initiatives such as therapeutic equine camps and special medical equipment for the examination of abused children. It also meets the needs of individual children, like a 12-year-old girl who’d had her four front teeth knocked out by a parent who was on drugs.

The state was willing to pay for dentures if the rest of the girl’s teeth were extracted, but wouldn’t pay for a bridge.

“They called us and we said, absolutely. We will do that,” Jo said.

One of the unique aspects of the Poshard Foundation is its flexibility.

“Whereas the state or other agencies would take forever to respond to requests like that, if a social worker verifies that need to us, we get on the phone with our board and we look at that social worker’s request, we can approve that in a matter of 20 minutes and have a check going to that agency to fix that child’s teeth,” Glenn said.

“The situation usually comes down to the fact that the abused child has a need, and they cannot get it met. The funds aren’t there, there’s too much red tape, they can’t cut through. So they will call us. And that’s how we like to be used, in a way - is when you can’t get help from anywhere else, call us,” Jo said.

Last year, a lack of state funding led several social service providers to cut counseling services for abused children, and the Foundation provided $100,000 to 12 agencies to keep those programs in place.

“I think for some social service agencies, they’re like a life raft because of the state budget,” said Ginger Meyer, clinical director of the Children’s Medical Resource Network.

Requests have ramped up since the state budget crisis began, Jo said.

“I think we’re definitely getting more requests and they’re of a more serious nature, because in terms of funding for the agencies, some of them are really looking at closing their doors,” she said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the kind of funds to solve those problems, but we’re doing our best to fill in where we can.”

To Glenn, protecting the innocent is a moral test for our society right now.

“Sometimes, as a legislator - and I can say this because I was one - we lose sight of that societal imperative. It just becomes numbers to us. And you can’t just put numbers on the lives of children who are being abused. Do something, and get this budget mess settled. This has become a battle of egos, and children are suffering,” Glenn said.


Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/2pgdcFu


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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