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Comfort and joy at Girls Town

The nonprofit place for the neglected and abused shares the spirit of the holidays.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:31 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CALWOOD — Ask the residents of Missouri Girls Town what their favorite aspect of Christmas is, and the result is unanimous.

“Presents!”

The nonprofit organization will celebrate its 50th Christmas this year with more than $10,000 in gifts donated to the abused or neglected girls who go there for sanctuary.

“We do the best we can to spoil the kids,” Executive Director Roy Fowles said. “Our goal is to give the kids a homelike environment and be as caring as we can. We all eat too much and have a lot of fun and do a lot of activities.”

Missouri Girls Town was founded by Clarence Whitfield-Kemper and other members of the state branch of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

“The big key is to remember where this thing comes from,” Fowles said. “We’re very unique in the fact that a group of women who belong to small clubs, card clubs, sewing clubs have gotten together to create this place.”

Missouri Girls Town is said to have helped girls from every county in the state. There are six professional counselors and therapists on staff, as well as two teachers from the North Callaway school district.

It operates 365 days a year, and the staff tries to make every holiday traditional yet memorable.

Fowles said most Missouri Girls Town traditions stem from holidays. Administrative assistant Brenda Gordon said making gingerbread houses began as a Fowles family tradition but has become a favorite part of craft day. The girls and staff built 100 houses this year.

“We use graham crackers actually,” Gordon said. “They’re a little more sturdy that way.”

This year, the girls also made ornaments and picture frames to decorate their rooms and to give as presents. Fowles said they often visit Columbia or Mexico, Mo., to see “The Nutcracker Suite” and other Christmas performances.

Sonya, 17, said her favorite aspect of Christmas is the dinner and the crafts.

“I wouldn’t say sitting on Santa’s lap is my favorite part, she said. “But I do like opening the presents.”

Fowles describes it as a “pretty wild experience.”

“One year a girl wanted a trumpet, and a local high school music supplier donated one to us,” he said. “She was shocked.”

“Another girl wanted a little sewing machine. She used it to make her own prom dress and her own clothes. That was neat.”

Some people don’t even wish for presents but to instead help local families in need. Others just wish for a holiday pass so they can see their own families.

“Some kids can go back and see their family; some can’t,” Fowles said. “It depends on the individual. Some of the girls came from six to 15 other places. Being moved around a lot causes emotional difficulties and behavioral troubles. So we’re here to do two things: Solve problems and help kids grow up again.”


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