• Mar 11 2014

    Girl Power! Presents, Financial Power

    by Krista Dietrich

    This February the Junior League of Tampa’s Girl Power Project presented a workshop which focused on the important topic of Financial Power to the young women currently residing at Joshua House.  Two of the Junior League of Tampa volunteers, Meghan Hacas and Dora Furman, work as financial analysts which helped provide first-hand knowledge to the group.  Using the successful Junior Achievement program as a guide, the girls worked in teams playing fun and educational games which helped them learn the valuable tools of making a budget and living within your means.  Gita, a representative from Regions Bank also taught the girls how to write a check, the difference between debit and credit cards, and the importance of balancing a bank account.  These skills will prove very valuable to these young women as they move out on their own in the future.

    Next month’s theme will be Powerfully Pure. This event will focus on fitness and nutrition.  The young ladies of Joshua House will be able to learn how to make simple tasty and healthy snacks and also be able to participate in a fun fitness activity. 

  • Feb 17 2014

    Girl Power! Presents The Power of Picture Perfect Pampering at Joshua House

    by Krista L. Dietrich

    On Saturday January 11th, the Junior League of Tampa Girl Power project presented an event focused on reminding the young girls residing at Joshua House the importance of believing in yourself and the power of a positive self-image.  Sixteen girls and a few Joshua House staff enjoyed a day of pampering which included getting their hair done by stylists from TriBeca Ybor and Silvia Gamez.  Make up was done by Arbonne and Emily Fitch and mini manicures from Arbonne.  Personal styling sessions where provided by Michelle Bremer with Runway Translator. REHAB and Princess Boutique provided outfits and accessories for the girls at Joshua House to select from for their personal photo shoot.  Everyone enjoyed a light breakfast prior to all of their primping.  Between services, the girls decorated picture frames to keep for their favorite print from the photo shoot done by Images by Pilar.  The event concluded with a delicious hot lunch and goody bags full of beauty products by Arbonne, Paul Mitchell and many more to take home.  The young women at Joshua House’s beauty truly shined from the inside in their photos and everyone went home feeling extra special and pampered.

    In February, Girl Power will present the Power of Money: Finance 101.  Stay tuned for more Girl Power updates and news! 

  • Jan 17 2014

    Junior League of Tampa’s New Project Girl Power Presents the Power of Giving Back to Joshua House

    by Allie LaLonde, The Junior League

    Lutz, FL – On December 7, 2013, the Junior League of Tampa’s Girl Power Project presented The Power of Giving Back to young women in foster care residing at Joshua House in Lutz, FL.    The event’s purpose was to show the young women how good it feels to give back to their community.  The group of people the young women gave back to were soldiers at the VA Hospital.  The girls listened to speaker Beverly Thomas, a commander at MacDill Air force Base in Tampa, FL.  Beverly taught the girls about the trials and tribulations of soldiers and how they can feel lonely while overseas, particularly when away during the holidays.  A civilian employee of MacDill Air force Base and fellow Junior League of Tampa member Michelle Mayo then spoke on how great it feels to help men and women in uniform.  Michelle currently helps design tanks for the military.  After the girls listened to the speakers they created holiday cards for service men and women wishing them well for the holiday season and thanking them for their service.  The girls were then able to decorate a personal holiday ornament for themselves to remember the special event.

    About the Girl Power Project

    This year the Junior League of Tampa introduced a new project, Girl Power.  The mission of the project is to promote literacy, scholarship, nutrition, and positive self-image to young women in foster care currently residing at Joshua House.  One Saturday each month Junior League volunteers will present a different themed event to present to the young women of Joshua House.  The goal of the project is to improve the life of the young women by showing their lives can improve for the better and that their past does not dictate their destiny, to increase opportunity for academic success for at-risk students, and to decrease the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system by reducing the economic and social cost of juvenile delinquency and helping prepare youth to become productive tax-paying adults. 

  • Jan 09 2014

    Child sex slavery and the ABOLISH movement: Abolishing one of Tampa Bay's worst claims to fame

    by Grayson Kamm - 10 News
    Tampa, Florida -- The biggest campaign ever to try to wipe out one of Tampa Bay's worst claims to fame kicks off this weekend. 

    There's a good chance you may be ashamed and angry when you find out what it's about. 

    You know we have the beaches and Busch Gardens, but did you know Florida is the number three state in the entire country for reports of children forced into sex slavery? 

    A new video released by the ABOLISH movement shows a setting the whole world associates with Florida: the beach. Then the tone turns -- quickly. 

    You watch the real reactions of people when they find out the facts about girls here in the Bay area -- as young as twelve years old -- forced to live as essentially sex slaves, abused by an average of ten men a night. 

    "I just love Tampa, and the fact that we're kind of a hotbed for this sort of thing is just not ok. And then, having children myself, I just can't -- can't abide it," said Lee Lowry. 

    Lowry's group, the Junior League of Tampa, is working with another group, Community Campaign, to launch this ABOLISH movement. 

    Parents, pay attention to this. 

    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found one out of every eight endangered runaway kids reported to them is likely a victim of this.

    Kids in the foster care system are at high risk, too. 

    Pimps target them and prey on them. 

    They face an awful life of violence, poverty, and forced prostitution. 

    "When it comes to a child of 13 or 14, it can't be prostitution. She's not making that choice. So, it's -- trafficking," Lowry said. 

    And it's happening in Tampa Bay. 

    The ABOLISH movement aims to get all of us here to open our eyes.

    So starting this week, billboards with the movement's purple and white logo will catch your eye, the new ABOLISH movement website is live, and a rally with bands and food trucks is planned this weekend. 

    "We think that fundraising can happen so there can be some safehouses. Awareness can happen so laws can be changed," Lowry said. 

    "And people will just know so that if they're out in the community, and something seems wrong, they will know where to go and that it might be wrong -- and they should say something." 

    She's hoping the shocked faces of people on the beach will help you connect to the faceless and voiceless victims trapped and abused every day in the corners of Tampa Bay that aren't so full of sunshine. 

    You're welcome to join the ABOLISH movement rally on Saturday, Jan. 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lykes Gaslight Park in Downtown Tampa. 

    If you need help or want to learn more, you can text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733) on your cell phone or call 888-373-7888 to reach the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
  • Jan 09 2014

    Raising awareness on human trafficking

    by Editorial, Tampa Bay Times

    Political and civic leaders across Tampa Bay are getting behind a worthwhile effort this month to highlight the scourge of human trafficking. Child sex slavery has long operated below the radar. By giving this crime a very public face, Florida will be more effective in crafting a robust response.

    Florida ranks third in the country in human trafficking, a crime under state and federal laws that includes sex slavery and forced labor. The awareness campaign that begins this week is an effort by the Junior League of Tampa and other partners to raise awareness of the problem, and to prod state lawmakers and policymakers to find solutions that better protect children and punish abusers. The campaign will use traditional advertising — public service announcements, billboards and the like — and also a busy schedule of public events. (For a listing, check

    This effort should bring some unity to efforts by politicians, law enforcement and community activists to strengthen the child protection system. Police and prosecutors need to understand how traffickers operate. Judges need to distinguish between sex workers and sex slaves. And state and local officials should repair the holes in the social safety net that put at-risk teens and younger children in danger. NEW

    Aside from giving victims guidance on where to seek help, this month's campaign could be a building block for the future. Hillsborough County commissioners will discuss the effort today as they look to convene a strategy session in the coming weeks for officials and interest groups from the Tampa Bay area. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualiteri has recognized human trafficking as a major threat and recently formed a special unit to crack down on trafficking cases. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a former Hillsborough prosecutor, has made trafficking enforcement cases a priority. The League of Women Voters and other advocates are also working with lawmakers on legislation for this spring that would increase the penalty for human trafficking.

    Increasing public awareness, giving victims a better way out and moving across a broad front to crack down on trafficking are significant goals. Achieving them will require sustaining this effort far beyond the end of this ad campaign, and legislators and local officials should pursue pragmatic solutions.

  • Jan 09 2014

    Groups unite in Tampa to fight human trafficking

    by Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff

    TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area is a top destination for human traffickers in Florida, experts say, but the enormity of the threat has barely scratched the community’s collective consciousness.

    That may be about to change. Friday will see the first of a series of events aimed at mobilizing the public and uniting different civic groups that have worked on the issue. The Abolish (child sexual slavery) Movement will kick off the events with a Saturday rally at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa.

    “Florida is considered third in the nation in sex trafficking, labor trafficking and domestic servitude,” said Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking of Tampa Bay. “The Tampa Bay area is a top destination for traffickers, looking for people to traffic or to bring victims here.”

    Human trafficking is the illegal holding of people against their will and selling or renting them out for involuntary sex or labor. Child sexual slavery caters to pedophiles and is international in scope.

    The problem has been festering here since before 2004 when federal authorities created the “Rescue and Restore” program, designed to recruit and train local police, medical and social service providers in how to recognize and help human trafficking victims. Tampa was one of four cities, along with Phoenix, Philadelphia and Atlanta, chosen as a site for the campaign.

    Then in 2006, local police created the Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Human Trafficking Task Force after local Hispanics reported the problem existed in their communities.

    Despite those efforts, child sex slavery continues to proliferate in the area, according to government authorities. Groover-Skipper said at least 100 civic, non-profit and faith-based groups are working on the issue.

    “The new part is all the different groups are coming together and have finally developed an awareness campaign,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. “Awareness is good if you can get people to see what the signs are so their kids don’t become victims. That’s the important thing.”

    The Abolish Movement has a purple logo developed by the local AD2 advertising firm, which Groover-Skipper said has donated $400,000 worth of free branding to the campaign. Also helping in the effort is the Junior League of Tampa, which last year identified human trafficking as a priority.

    The campaign will include “gritty ads” with purple as the dominant color, Groover-Skipper said, and “gorilla art,” which means anonymous art work left in public places.

    “There hasn’t been a unified umbrella campaign,” she said. “Once people are aware, it will help with fund-raising for these organizations.”

    Murman agreed, but said to truly abolish human trafficking in the area would probably take more law enforcement resources.

    “The real work is in the investigation and prosecution, and that is something I’m going to be working really hard with the sheriff and the city of Tampa Police Department,” Murman said. “I think it will take dollars. It will probably take a minimum of five deputies to do the thorough investigation needed to track these people.”

    The Saturday event at Gas Light Park will be from 4-7 p.m. and will feature Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other elected officials, food trucks and a candlelight vigil.

    Other upcoming Abolish Movement events:

    Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Training, Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Stetson University Tampa Law Center, 1700 N. Tampa St. A three-part training series to promote awareness and education on child sex slavery. Registration is required. Contact: Shannon Martucci at (813) 272-6272.

    Movie and popcorn at Sun City Center, Friday, 1-3 p.m. at Sun City Center Atrium Building, Florida Room, 945 N. Course Lane. Free popcorn and movie, “Abduction of Eden,” starring Jamie Chung and Beau Bridges.

    “Freedom at the Cross Conference,” Saturday, 1-7 p.m., Bridgeway Church, 30660 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel. This men’s only conference is designed to them understand the many faces of human

    trafficking and what role men can play in combating this horrific crime. Registration is required at

    Other events can be found at

  • Dec 20 2013

    Child Advocate Dottie Berger MacKinnon to be inducted into FL Women's Hall of Fame

    by WFTS Staff

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Governor Rick Scott announced three inductees to the Florida Women's Hall of Fame, including child advocate Dottie Berger MacKinnon, of Tampa,  who passed away earlier this year.

    MacKinnon was a founder of Joshua House, which serves as a haven for children removed from their families. She also founded A Kid's Place, which is a group home in Brandon that advocates for siblings to stay together after being taken from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

    Governor Scott chose the women from a list of 10 nominees. Others on the list include Highland County Sheriff Susan Benton, of Sebring, and Louise Jones Gopher, a lifelong educator in Okeechobee.

    MacKinnon passed away in October after losing her battle with cancer. She was 71.

  • Dec 17 2013

    News from Friends of Joshua House

    by Friends of Joshua House

    Dear Friends of Joshua House

    The New Year and Christmas holidays are fast approaching. As each day speeds by I cannot help but think how fortunate we are that so many of you have reached out to help one or more of our children this season. Joshua House continues to face many challenges, especially with the loss of our beloved founders Olin Mott and Dottie Berger MacKinnon. Their absence is sorely felt. Funding is an ongoing and complicated issue for foster care providers and it is no surprise that Joshua House operates on a deficit budget. Every provider does. Adding to that issue are children and teens coming from increasingly violent homes, sexual and human trafficking, and serious neglect, it feels as if it will never end. Yet, the Tampa Bay community continues to be this wonderful place where its citizens nurture philanthropy and support for those in need. I am so proud to call this place home. I hope you will continue to keep Joshua House foremost in your mind and hearts this season. We still have much to do to make Christmas a bright and memorable day for our children and teens. This is the only time of the year that we do gift drives, what we collect will carry us through next Christmas. We want every child that arrives at Joshua House to be welcomed with joy and acceptance.

    Follow the links to make a donation to
    support Joshua House and help us to make
    it a warm and loving home for the children
    and teens.  Please know that your gift     
    whether it is monetary or time, is needed
    and appreciated greatly. 
    Bless you for being our friends.   

    I would be remiss if I did not share that I am extremely grateful to the Friends of Joshua House Foundation Board of Directors and Officers, to the dedicated staff at the Children's Home Society of Florida's Gulf Coast Region, to all our donors, volunteers, and the wonderful Founders of Joshua House. You are the light that guides these children towards a better future.  ~DeDe Grundel, Executive Director

    A Joshua House Story

     When 11 year old Chase arrived at Joshua  House this summer he had very little. A few  items of clothes, mismatched shoes, and  certainly no toys or games he could call his  own. Removed from his parents due to  abuse, he was quiet and reluctant to interact.  Who can blame him? No child wants to call  Joshua House home. Not because it is a  terrible place to live. On the contrary, it is quite beautiful. With the houses set in a park like setting, a large play area shaded by oak trees, meals served at dining room tables like a family would dine. Even concerned staff that take the time to listen to each child, whether they are sharing their joys or woes. Somebody is listening, caring, and loving simply is not home. Not a home like we know and expect. Certainly not a home like Chase wishes for. After six months, Chase is doing better, but not wonderful. That is because he knows in his heart the one true wish he had for Christmas simply will not come true. He wants to go home. He can't undo what his father has done; he can't make his mother more responsible.  He can only breathe deep and cope the best way possible. And he can hope and wish. 

    We provide you, our supporters, with our children's Christmas Wish List for a reason. We want to see their joy on Christmas morning when their wishes are granted. It warms our hearts and we appreciate all you do to make this happen. The holidays are always a difficult time for abused, abandoned, and neglected children like Chase. They key word is abandonment. No matter the reason they are in foster care, no matter that they are safe and not being hurt anymore; they feel abandoned, and they feel their loneliness more profoundly. We truly wish we could make ALL of Chase's wishes for the holidays come true. All we can do is strive to fill as many wishes as we can, and try to make Christmas brighter and more memorable than Chase has ever experienced. And then we go on to make the next day a good one as well, and then the next one after that. 

    We hope you will join us with a donation that will make the Holidays and every day a better day for children like Chase. We also hope you understand that the wish list on our website is real, just like our children. But we changed Chase's name to protect his identity.

    Our Wish for You 

    We are humbled by the devotion and support of longtime friends, and we have been honored as supporters have gifted everything from a precious childhood toy to a transformative gift to help restore one of our houses. If you plan to share a gift with us or have already shared your abundance with us in 2013, we sincerely thank you. You have made a profound and lasting impact on the children who call Joshua House home.

  • Oct 18 2013

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon was a force of change for abused kids

    by Sue Carlton, Times Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

    As the story goes, Dottie Berger was deep into the latest newspaper article about yet another child who had died in foster care. She was talking to Bob Thomas, businessman, rancher and major philanthropist.

    This is terrible, she said. Somebody's got to do something.

    And Thomas replied: You're somebody, aren't you?

    Ask anyone who knew her: Dottie Berger, later Dottie Berger MacKinnon, was indeed somebody and also something else. A Hillsborough County commissioner for a time, she was more importantly a driving force for abused and neglected kids, and one of the reasons they lay their heads at safe havens called Joshua House and A Kid's Place.

    Joshua House, born 20 years ago in part out of that conversation about somebody needing to do something, sits on 11 peaceful acres in Lutz. In a semicircle facing an oak-shaded lawn are four residential houses for kids 7 to 17, kids hurt or left behind, needing help and a home.

    A child could be here a day. He could live here for years.

    To call this a shelter is an understatement, though. In each house's open kitchen, kids eat together like family. They sleep two or three to a bedroom under bright murals and thick comforters. When I was there, they had just decorated for Halloween and with great enthusiasm, kids from one house making off with the decorations from another for fun.

    Residents chalk their names, their scrawled hearts and their teenage thoughts on blackboard paint that covers furniture. A bulletin board schedules tutoring, pumpkin-carving and what day they go to Ribfest. On this day the kids are off at school, but they will soon spill into the sprawling, shady yard. A family of huge crows lives out there, loud and raucous and watching over.

    The place has the feel of — if not a house waiting for its people to get home, then something close to it.

    Kids here also get therapy for their trauma and grief. They get help.

    Raising money for Joshua House had been a particular job of Berger MacKinnon's (next up: replacing the dated playground equipment with new stuff including a gazebo. The girls especially will like a gazebo.) She was adept at rallying friends to her causes.

    And even up to the end, it seemed like you saw her everywhere.

    Even when you heard she was very sick, there she was at a South Tampa power lunch spot, impeccably dressed and blond hair gleaming, or off to another board meeting.

    "She had this effervescence, this inner glow," says DeDe Grundel, executive director of Friends of Joshua House Foundation and another founder of A Kid's Place in Brandon. No matter how sick her friend got, no matter how bad she felt, she got up, got dressed and got going. "She'd say 'I've got work to do,' " Grundel said.

    "It's a very rare quality in a person."

    Even a couple of weeks ago, Berger MacKinnon was at her own dining room table in her wheelchair for a meeting, stressing the importance of keeping siblings in crisis together instead of doling them out to wherever there was room. It was another thing she believed in.

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon died this week at 71 after battling cancer.

    Only 71, you want to say, when you look around at all somebody did for kids who needed her.

  • Oct 18 2013

    Friends bid farewell to children's advocate Dottie Berger MacKinnon

    by Bill Varian, Tampa Bay Times
    TAMPA — Dottie Berger MacKinnon won countless accolades in the months leading up to her death for her tireless work on behalf of abused and neglected children.

    Friends and family celebrated her devotion to that cause, her love for her 15 grandchildren, the upbeat manner in which she stared down cancer twice and the way she so often put others before herself.

    "We don't have to build Dottie up in death," said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, a friend of Mrs. Berger MacKinnon and her husband, Sandy MacKinnon. "Her life and service to the community speaks for itself."

    Hundreds filed Thursday afternoon into the St. John's Episcopal Church in South Tampa to pay tribute to Mrs. Berger MacKinnon, 71, who died Sunday after a more than three-year battle with bile duct cancer that doctors warned would claim her much sooner. She had previously fought breast cancer a dozen years earlier, never taking a break from her advocacy for children.

    Family members, many from her native Kentucky, carried sunflowers, her favorite.

    In the audience were mayors of Tampa past and present, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, county commissioners, city council members, judges and a host of other public figures.

    Mrs. Berger MacKinnon was once one of them, serving a term on the Hillsborough County Commission from 1994 to 1998.

    That barely rated a mention Thursday as friends remembered the woman who in the 1990s co-founded the Joshua House and Friends of the Joshua House, the former a haven for abused and neglected children in Lutz.

    In the past decade, she led efforts to help foster children, in part by seeking to keep siblings removed from abusive homes together, as a central figure in the formation of the Kids Charity of Tampa Bay. Fundraising ultimately led to the creation of a 60-bed shelter on Lithia Pinecrest Road called A Kid's Place.

    "She saw the gaps in the system and she chose to make us different in Hillsborough County," Gee said. "And it became her life's work. She had an unbridled passion for children. She translated that love into an unbridled zeal to protect and to foster the most vulnerable in our community."

    Gee and Bondi, who regularly visited Mrs. Berger MacKinnon in her final weeks, recalled someone who had no problem asking for money to help support her causes. She didn't just ask once, Gee said, even if you had given before.

    Bondi said she set an example for others in her dedication in her causes but also in her unconditional and engaged friendship, even as she battled illness.

    "Dottie not only gave of herself, but she inspired others," said Bondi, who informed those in attendance that Mrs. Berger MacKinnon will be receiving one more honor, as Gov. Rick Scott will name her to the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.

    Of course, she adored her own family and the grandchildren who called her Nana. Even as the prognosis grew grim, she painted her toenails blue to impress the little ones, said friend Cathy Unruh. When the end came near, Unruh said, her friend got her hair done, stylish until the end.

    Unruh said Mrs. Berger MacKinnon had a regular farewell when parting from friends. She offered it as a closing to Thursday's memorial service.

    "Love you guys. God bless," she said.


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