Home Editor's Picks Area Free Arts for Abused Children programs awarded $2.5M grant

Area Free Arts for Abused Children programs awarded $2.5M grant

A group of children dance at a Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona camp. (Lisa Olson/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation has awarded Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona (Free Arts) a $2.5 million grant to double the organization’s physical space and provide funding for two of its signature programs. The grant will establish The Bob and Renee Parsons Center for Hope and Healing, expand programming and reach children Free Arts had previously been unable to serve.

Bob and Renee Parsons. (Submitted)

Free Arts programs are delivered by volunteer mentors and professional teaching artists who serve 8,000 children annually through partnerships with more than 40 social service child welfare agencies at 100-plus sites across Maricopa County, including in Mesa.

The Mesa partners are Child Crisis Arizona: an emergency shelter for children in Mesa; Firm Foundation Youth Homes: a group home in Mesa serving up to 10 youth ages 6-17; House of Refuge: transitional housing in Mesa for women and their children, A New Leaf: La Mesita Family Shelter serving homeless families; Autumn House domestic violence shelter for women and their children; three residential treatment centers for at-risk teen boys; Sacred Journey: four group homes in Mesa for teenage girls; Sunshine Acres: six group homes and a school for children ages 5-18 in Mesa.

“Free Arts has been quietly demonstrating the powerful healing art can have on children – and we think it’s time for their story to get a little louder,” said American entrepreneur and philanthropist Bob Parsons. “Renee and I have no doubt that with added space and resources, Free Arts will have a larger impact on the community and will empower even more children to create a better future for themselves.”

Artist Frank Thompson teaches children how to play the guitar at a Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona camp. (Lisa Olson/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

Free Arts harnesses the healing powers of art to help abused and homeless children build resiliency and learn to trust and heal. All the children in Free Arts programs have experienced combinations of family trauma, homelessness and violence. To begin the healing process, Free Arts provides mentoring, a caring community and an opportunity to learn new skills and express themselves.

“The work being done by Free Arts is providing hope and a pathway to healing for children who have gone through serious and traumatic experiences,” said business woman and philanthropist Renee Parsons. “Bob and I have been fortunate enough to witness the incredible difference art is making in the lives of these children, and we are happy to continue our support of this great organization.”

As part of the funding, Free Arts will be able to purchase the building in which they currently rent space and conduct major renovations to accommodate onsite programming, staff and volunteer growth and create a community center that can be utilized for training, workshops and events. Historically, programs have been limited to children living in foster care group homes and homeless shelters, but this grant will allow the organization to open its doors to children living with foster families.

“This generous donation will change the future of Free Arts and we are incredibly grateful,” said Alicia Sutton Campbell, executive director, Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona. “The new building is double in size from our previous space and will enable future growth and expansion over the next 10 years. Our vision is to create a center where the community can learn about the effects of trauma and how to use the arts to build resilience in children.”

Bob and Renee Parsons have been longtime supporters of Free Arts and through The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation have granted more than $3 million to the organization over the past six years. The two programs specifically supported by this grant are the Free Arts Camp and Professional Artist Series. The organization hopes this gift will inspire others to support Free Arts as they work to raise an additional $700,000 to complete the capital campaign. To learn more about the work of Free Arts or how you can get involved, visit freeartsaz.org.

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