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Arrow Ministries in Process of Assuming Second Mile Programs

by on June 28, 2012 6:00 AM

As the process continues for Texas-based Arrow Child & Family Ministries to assume operations of The Second Mile programs following the child sex abuse charges against its founder, the primary goal of the non-profit remains the same: to serve at-risk children.

By combining the Arrow and The Second Mile programs, the hope is to provide a full continuum of care for children in the community.

After allegations were made against Jerry Sandusky, in November 2011 The Second Mile announced it was exploring various options regarding its future. Arrow reached out to offer assistance.

Then, after evaluating more than 15 organizations, a committee of The Second Mile board selected Arrow as the best charity to assume operations of its programs, said Arrow Founder and CEO Mark Tennant.

Just last month, attorneys for The Second Mile submitted a petition in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Orphans’ Court Division, Tennant said, outlining the proposed transfer of these programs and dissolution of The Second Mile.

The Second Mile, which recently put its State College property up for sale, is in the process of transferring its millions of dollars in assets to Arrow Child & Family Ministry, a Houston-based charity founded by a survivor of child sexual abuse, so some of the programs can continue in Pennsylvania. 

On Tuesday, lawyers for Victims 3, 5 and 7 filed a petition in Centre County Orphans' Court to block that transfer. A fourth man, identified in court documents as 'John Doe' is also filing to block the transfer. 'John Doe' is a Philadelphia man who, while not a part of the original grand jury presentment, has filed a civil suit in Philadelphia against Sandusky, according to court documents.

“The court proceedings could take several weeks,” Tennant said. “In the meantime, The Second Mile will continue to operate the programs.”

These programs include:

  • Challenge Program, a week-long residential summer camp;
  • Friend, a mentoring and recreational activities program that pairs collegiate volunteers with elementary school students.
  • Friend Fitness, which helps struggling teens achieve personal, academic and fitness goals through individualized strength training with adult mentors.
  • Foster Family Support, which works to support and recognize foster parents statewide.
  • Leadership Institute, a four-day conference that encourages and empowers students from across Pennsylvania to make a difference in their communities, according to information provided by Tennant.

Although Arrow had no past relationship with The Second Mile, it was aware of its existence because it operates an office in Altoona, Tennant said.

“We learned of the crisis in the national press,” he said.

However, Tennant himself has a personal connection to Pennsylvania.

“I grew up in Washington (Pa.) … and I was removed from my home at the age of 10 because I was being physically and sexually abused,” he said.

“At the age of 13 I was placed in the loving home of a Christian foster family in Bedford … to this day, my foster parents are ‘mom and dad’ to me. They still live in Bedford and my wife and children and I enjoy family visits there … so regardless of my many years living in Texas, Central Pennsylvania will always be home to me.”

Tennant said when he heard that The Second Mile might be closing, it affected him “on many levels.”

“I found my heart leading me home to be a part of the healing process,” he said. “Thousands of at-risk children have been helped by The Second Mile programs over its 35-year history and I wanted to make sure those programs continued.”

Eventually, Arrow plans to operate the programs, which will keep their names, and The Second Mile will discontinue as an entity; however, Arrow plays no role in the dissolution process, Tennant said.

Tennant said Arrow plans to hire the existing program staff so that the children will still be able to work alongside the people they have become familiar with.

“Our goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible for the employees, volunteers, participating schools, and the children and their families,” Tennant said. “It is important to note that all Second Mile employees must go through Arrow’s hiring process, which includes screening and training. And all volunteers will be screened and trained as well.”

Offices will continue to operate in State College, and the Harrisburg and Philadelphia areas, Tennant said. However, to give staff and volunteers a “fresh start,” the physical addresses will change.

“We plan to increase our foster care and adoption programs in those three locations so that we will provide a continuum of care for children,” he said. “And I can see at some point in the future that we could replicate The Second Mile programs at our other locations, such as in Texas and Maryland.”

Tennant said the primary goal of Arrow remains as it always has: serve at-risk children.

“I want to stress that the programs are very effective and thousands of children benefitted a great deal from them,” he said. “And I commend the many employees, volunteers, board members and donors at The Second Mile who, over the past 35 years, gave of themselves to change young lives for the better. We will honor their good work as we move forward to heal and rebuild.”

Tennant said those who pull support from The Second Mile because of its now potentially not-so-good reputation, due to the Sandusky trial, are only hurting the children these programs serve.

“I think once The Second Mile donors get to know Arrow, most will return and new donors will come into the fold,” he said. “A lot of good was done by those involved with The Second Mile over the years and we are focusing on that.”

Tennant said while The Second Mile targets at-risk children before a crisis occurs in the home that requires the intervention of authorities, Arrow works with children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.

“In some cases, Children and Youth Services contracts with Arrow to provide services to families in crisis so that the child can remain in the home safely,” he said. “Arrow reaches out to area churches to identify, train and equip foster families to accept a traumatized child into their home with the goal of a permanency placement, meaning adoption into a loving family forever.”

Tennant said Arrow was not created out of his personal pain as the victim of child abuse, it was created out of the hope and healing he received from his foster family.

“I believe that if we can bring hope and healing to abused children, those living in the foster care system, and those aging out of the system, then we can truly change the future of our nation,” Tennant said.

“We are changing the lives of abused and neglected children, and that change will lead to a reduction in homelessness, poverty and crime – and that will mean positive change for our nation and world.”

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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