WOOSTER — After the fundraising effort of this year’s Sweet Jubilation, it would not be a surprise to hear The Village Network President and CEO Rich Graziano imitating Jackie Gleason: “How sweet it is!”
This year’s event was a banner year for The Village Network, or, more precisely, the youth the organization serves. The leadership decided long before the annual fundraiser, the money donated would be used for the The Village Network’s new Therapeutic Stabilization Center. The Wooster facility provides care and treatment for youth who are undergoing a severe crisis. Construction was recently completed, and it is in the process of being commissioned.
During the live auction, guests had the opportunity to donate $5,000 to name one of the healing rooms in the center. They could also donate $2,500 to purchase a bed; a special rocking chair, $1,500; bed linens and pillow, $200; a welcome bag, $100; a pair of shoes, $75; clothing, $50; and a blanket, $25.
Auctioneer Alan Chenevey created a light atmosphere throughout the live auction. However, when he was encouraging guests to commit to naming and outfitting the rooms for at-risk youth in crisis, he took his time. As he went down through the list, he found multiple takers for every item on the list.
Graziano expressed his appreciation throughout the night, as TVN workers, supporters, and friends donated to equip the rooms and bid on auction items, both silent and live.
Graziano also pointed out how the Therapeutic Stabilization Center was built with a tremendous amount of community support. The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Wayne & Holmes Counties, joined by the state, helped fund the center. However, it took a big commitment from The Village Network’s board members to come up with the initial seed money.
The TSC comes in a year when Graziano and The Village Network have been recognized for the nonprofit’s continued growth. TVN started with a single cottage with a handful of boys more than 70 years ago, and now it serves more than 7,000 youth across Ohio and in parts of West Virginia. At-risk youth have always been the focus.
“We change lives; it’s what we do,” Chief Financial Officer Bel Klockenga said in a video shown at the event.
The success of The Village Network can be measured in the impact to life of a human being, added board member Scott Allen.
At-risk youth come to The Village Network for a number of reasons, but “The reason for how the kids got here is not important,” Graziano said. What is important is where they are going. While the organization is making strides, “Our work is not done,” Graziano said.