• 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 17 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.

  • Oct 17 2013

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon had plenty of mettle, thankfully no tinfoil

    by Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times Columnist

    With her death at 71 days ago after a long struggle with cancer, Dottie Berger MacKinnon will be best remembered as a tireless and respected advocate for at-risk children.

    Along with her husband, Sandy MacKinnon, Tampa Bay has been blessed to have had two individuals who captured the essence of what the term "community service" truly means.

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon was instrumental in the founding of Joshua House and later A Kid's Place, contributions that would represent the gold standard of giving back. And that is as it should be.

    Given her accomplishments, it could probably be argued that her single term on the Hillsborough County Commission from 1994 to 1998 ranks lower on Dottie Berger MacKinnon's resume. And that is as it should be, too.

    But her time in office is noteworthy since she could be considered one of the early first victims of the tea party movement before there even was a tea party. As defeats go, this might have been one of Dottie Berger MacKinnon's proudest badges of honor.

    In 1996 Hillsborough County voters were asked to approve the Community Investment Tax to raise money not only for transportation and schools but for what would become Hellooooooo Sucker Stadium in order to appease Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer and his rug rats, What, me? and Worry?

    An earlier CIT effort had failed, but that measure included only transit and schools, not a football stadium for a billionaire. And since the body politic at the time feared that the Bucs would leave town without a stadium built with taxpayer money, CIT II was approved. How's that vote sitting with you now?

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon supported the CIT vote on the basis that if the public wanted to tax themselves, well, they ought to have every democratic right to tax themselves. It's taxation with representation. Hardly a radical concept.

    Except that it was, especially to two of Hillsborough's early tea party progenitors, wealthy big shots Ralph Hughes and Sam Rashid, who viewed the commissioner's acquiescence to the CIT referendum as heresy.

    Rashid scraped up a local political gadfly, Tim Curtis, to oppose Dottie Berger MacKinnon in the Republican primary in 1998. Curtis eventually would become one of the louder tea party bloviators in the county. With Rashid's and Hughes' financial help, Curtis beat the incumbent in the primary.

    The good news is that Curtis was then soundly beaten by Democrat Pat Frank in the general election. Dottie Berger MacKinnon went on to serve her community with grace and distinction. Pat Frank, another able public servant, went on to become the Hillsborough clerk of courts.

    And hapless politician Tim Curtis went on to rack up a string of losing elections rivaling the Washington Generals. Oh, and for a special cherry on top of all this, Ralph Hughes eventually dropped dead as a phony tax cheat.

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon lost an election, but not her core values. She was a common-sense Republican the party used to embrace before the tinfoil hat/Agenda 21/Glenn Beck Chicken Littles took over the GOP.

    In death, her contributions to society and to Hillsborough County will live on far longer than those who opposed her. Not only did Dottie Berger MacKinnon get the last laugh, but an enduring ovation from the grateful community she so unselfishly served.

  • Oct 17 2013

    Dottie Berger MacKinnon: A life fighting for children

    by KEVIN BRADY, The Tampa Bay Current

    Caring for children that society all too often forgets is the legacy of Dottie Berger MacKinnon, according to those who knew her best.

    Founder of A Kid’s Place in Brandon, Joshua House and A Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay, Berger MacKinnon, 71, died at her home Sunday morning, Oct. 13.

    “Blessing and prayers have been answered at 8:27 this morning. Dottie went to be with the Lord. Love to all who have been on her journey with her,” was the simple message on Berger MacKinnon’s Facebook page announcing her passing.

    Virginia Johnson, executive director of A Kid’s Place, said there was no more powerful presence than Berger MacKinnon.
    “She was an amazing and remarkable woman. She never backed down from a fight and was a very strong and significant advocate for children in the community. She always wanted to do the right thing for children and she worked tirelessly to ensure we as a community did the best for them.”

    The $5 million center has helped more than 700 children and acts as a shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected youngsters and their siblings. It provides a nurturing home for children who are taken from their homes while their cases are addressed in court.

    “She really wanted to raise the bar in foster care and we really believe we have done that at A Kid’s Place. This was her passion and her vision.”

    Berger MacKinnon would sometimes joke that her friends hated seeing her because they knew it was going to cost them money “but people didn’t mind because they knew she always produced results,” recalled Craig Latimer.

    A former major in charge of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Child Protective Investigations Unit, Latimer had “many a conversation” with Berger MacKinnon about the state of foster care in Hillsborough County. A Kid’s Place was the realization of that dream.

    “She was just an undying advocate for children and keeping siblings together,” said Latimer, Hillsborough’s supervisor ofelections and a board member at A Kid’s Place. “I thought the world of Dottie.”

    A friend for more than 20 years, Tampa tax attorney Linda Hanna, said Berger MacKinnon had enormous energy and is an example of what one person can do.

    “Lots of times we say one person cannot do very much but she is an example that one determined and dedicated person can make a difference,” said Hanna, who has served on the board at A Kid’s Place since it was founded.

    “Her determination has been a huge factor in creating and sustaining Joshua House, A Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay and A Kid’s Place. It was her vision and a result of conversations she had with folks in the foster care system about what was needed (that led to their creation). She then called on friends and acquaintances for all kinds of support. It was hard to say no to Dottie.”

    “It always came down to one simple rule with Dottie: Do the right thing, and do it in the best interest of our children. A simple rule does not always mean it’s easy to execute and yet Dottie could move mountains,” said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of Joshua House Foundation. “She could push through almost any barrier to achieve her goal.”

    Berger MacKinnon was inducted into the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame earlier this year. She served as a Hillsborough County commissioner from 1994-1998 and also sat on the board of Tampa General Hospital.

    Berger MacKinnon overcame breast cancer in the 1990s only to be diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2010. She was given three months to live at the time.

    “I always considered her a friend and a great servant and have tried to hold myself to the level of service that would meet her expectations,” said County Commissioner Al Higginbotham whose district includes Brandon and much of South County.

    “She definitely had a great impact on the community both on and off the commission,” said Higginbotham who said he was sure the current commission would mark her passing.

    Joe Troy, a member of the board at A Kid’s Place, said MacKinnon will be smiling today.

    “While one can never really prepare properly for the passing of someone as iconic as Dottie, our board made a promise to her that one day when she looks down on us from heaven, she would be beaming proudly that her legacy and vision to help God’s children through A Kid’s Place was solidly intact.”

  • Oct 15 2013

    Dottie MacKinnon remembered as a 'tireless' advocate for kids

    by Fox 13

    TAMPA (FOX 13) -A Tampa Bay woman who worked hard fighting for children has lost her battle with cancer. Dottie Berger MacKinnon died from liver cancer Sunday.

    When Dottie was diagnosed three and a half years ago, doctors said she had months to live. Her husband Sandy MacKinnon says she outlived their every expectation.

    "She was given eight months to live, and she kept saying to her doctor, ‘I'm going to be your miracle,' " Sandy MacKinnon said.

    Dottie, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner, was a fearless advocate for neglected and abused children. She founded A Kid's Place in Brandon. Outside of the building, there's a life-sized statue of Dottie reading to a child.

    "Dottie had a passion for children and she worked tirelessly to make sure that the right things were done for the children of our community," said A Kid's Place Executive Director Virginia Johnson.

    Dottie founded Joshua House, as well. It's also a safe haven for abused and abandoned children.

    She dedicated herself to charitable causes across the area, including Hands Across the Bay and its Dancing with the Stars fundraiser. Hands Across the Bay Founder Julie Weintraub says Dottie's imprint will be felt always.

    "Dottie didn't have to work. She didn't have to do charity work, but she took her passion and her blessings, and she fought for those who couldn't speak for themselves," Weintraub said.

    MacKinnon says his wife introduced him to the world in those last three years. They globetrotted, took family trips, and went out to dinner often. He says they lived life. When asked what he'll miss most about her, MacKinnon says "everything."

    Dottie leaves behind her husband, a blended family of five children, 17 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild on the way. Dottie adopted one of her children from foster care.

    She also leaves behind a thankful Tampa Bay community. She was 71 years old.

  • Oct 15 2013

    Forceful child advocate, Dottie Berger MacKinnon, dies

    by Kathryn Bursch, WTSP 10 News

    Brandon, Florida - Inside the doors of A Kid's Place and just past the giraffe, there's a portrait of founder Dottie Berger MacKinnon. But it's the cheery, home-like atmosphere at the children's shelter that really portrays the spirit of Berger MacKinnon.

    "She really believed we needed to do the right thing by the children in our community," said A Kid's Place Executive Director Virginia Johnson. "She knew they had been traumatized by what they had been through and she really wanted a safe place."

    A Kid's Place shelters children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect; with an emphasis on keeping siblings together. Berger MacKinnon, who had nine siblings herself, saw the need of keeping children together and helped raise millions to open the shelter doors in 2009.

    "The only thing they have is each other- those kids- and she changed it," said an emotional Julie Weintraub, a friend of Berger MacKinnon's. "She said, 'That's not right.'"

    And children's causes were nothing new. Before A Kid's Place, Berger MacKinnon helped found Joshua House, another safe haven for kids in crisis. And she continued to be a relentless fundraiser for both shelters.

    "She used to tease that her friends didn't want to see her coming anymore, because they knew she was going to be asking for more support," said Johnson with a chuckle.

    The former Hillsborough County Commissioner survived breast cancer and on Sunday lost her battle with intestinal cancer. She was 71. But even in the end, her focus was on the kids.

    Johnson said, "Within 10 days of her death, she was still calling meetings. She was just a force."


Donate here to provide a Safe Haven for the Joshua House Children.