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Posted: March 01, 2011

CEBA Samaritan Institute Award: Family Tree

Nonprofit offers help to victims of child abuse, domestic violence and homelessness

Maria Martin

If youPPR_CEBA_Shields_Mar11.jpg ask Scott Shields to describe the mission of Family Tree, he has a very short answer.

"We help people who haven't been blessed to have the opportunities in life that most of us do," says Shields, who has been CEO of the nonprofit organization for three years.

Family Tree, the winner of this year's Samaritan Institute Award, reached out to around 37,000 people in metro Denver last year.

The Wheat Ridge-based organization helps people overcome child abuse, domestic violence and homelessness, Shields says.

A home for youth and a shelter for battered women allow people who are struggling to find respite.

Family Tree Domestic Violence Services, another branch of the organization, ensures the safety and healing of children, parents and families.

Hotlines are essential to the group, Shields says.

"They're critical in a number of ways," he says. "For domestic violence victims, there may be a window of five minutes for us to help them get out of an abusive situation. Safety is of primary importance. For many of our programs, that initial call is an entry point into our services. We're able to help people out, even if we don't immediately have the capacity to get them in one of our homes."

Those homes help everyone from domestic-violence victims to homeless youth.

One is for youth ages 11 to 17. Another is a shelter for battered women. House of Hope is a 30-bed homeless shelter for women and children.

Family Tree also owns and leases housing units for the homeless.

"Because of the economy, that's our longest wait list," Shields says. "It's around 600. We're not the only organization to offer this, so we encourage people to get on every list they can."
Ethics, Shields says, is an intrinsic part of Family Tree, which has been serving those in need since 1976.

The staff of around 140 people, as well as more than a thousand volunteers, "want to make the community a better place, but they want to do it the right way," he says.

"We've been fortunate enough to win other awards for similar reasons," he says of the latest ethics award. "Our mission drives us in that direction."
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Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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