By Lanier Laney
Fleetwood O’Farrell, the popular director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association’s (CAPA) Open Arms Shelter, retired July 1 after nine fruitful years. CAPA is a local nonprofit that was started 25 years ago to help break the destructive cycle of child abuse and neglect in Beaufort County by educating parents, children and their caregivers through a variety of programs.
At the heart of the organization is the Open Arms Shelter that accepts and comforts children removed from their home by the Department of Social Services and no family member or foster home is available to take in the child. Since opening its doors in 1985, the shelter has served more than 2,000 area children. CAPA’s Open Arms Shelter is the only shelter of its type now serving the five county area — Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton and Allendale. The money to run the shelter comes solely
from donations and fundraisers and proceeds from CAPA’s Closet, a thrift store of donated clothes and items that has recently moved to a new, bigger location on Ribaut Road.
Fleetwood is a native of Greenville, South Carolina, “where I also learned to Shag,” she said with a smile.
She’s retiring after 35 years in the field of Human Services, which, after getting her masters degree from Clemson, included working for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) on the Child and Adolescent Unit of the State Hospital in Columbia; Director of Sustenance Services for Pee Dee Region of the SCDMH; and Director of Clinical Service for Beaufort County Department of Alcohol and Other Drugs.
In the nine years spent as director of the CAPA Open Arms Shelter, Fleetwood was instrumental in the development and implementation of the CARE Curriculum, specifically designed to train staff working in residential emergency children’s shelters, a program coordinated with Cornell University. She also served on the board of directors for the South Carolina Emergency Shelter Interest Group and as its president for two years.
In her work at the shelter, Fleetwood said, “I encourage the spirit of hospitality. Children that come into our care are our guests during their stay, and as such, are to be treated with respect and dignity. We provide a loving,stable and safe environment in which a child can go about the business of being a child. We encourage the residents to look beyond their circumstances and embrace a hope for a better future. We at Open Arms are hope brokers. Working for CAPA has been a true blessing to me.”
Fleetwood, who moved to Beaufort 26 years ago, is a member of St. Helena Parish Church where she serves on the altar guild and as a docent during their tours. She’s also on the board of directors of the Exchange Club of Beaufort. She is very proud of her two sons, Ty and Bradshaw.
Tina Kuhn, the new incoming shelter director, has also been connected with the shelter for the past nine years. Most recently she managed the children’s cases and worked as an advocate for the children. She also made their doctor, dental and mental health appointments along with being in charge of transporting the children to and from their appointments.
Tina, an Illinois native, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Coastal Carolina University, and taught first grade at Praise Christian Academy for 19 years.
“I have a love of children,” said Tina.
A particular experience that Tina had while growing up led to her current passion to help children. “My best friend in middle school was a foster child,” she said. “One day when I went to school, she was not there. After a week went by, our teacher found out that social services had moved her. I was never able to say good bye. That always bothered me. After that, I always had an interest in the social service field and I always wanted to be there for children that were placed in care and that were removed from their biological families.”
Through her work she said, “I’ve learned that children are resilient and I’ve become a stronger person working with abused and neglected children.”
Tina has been married for “28 wonderful years” and loves the friendly people and natural beauty she finds in Beaufort. She also rides a motorcycle, something she doesn’t think people would have “expected me to do,” Tina said with a smile.
Fleetwood has total confidence that Tina will do a great job as shelter director.
“Tina has been my ‘right hand woman’ for the last four years. She not only brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position, but the heart of a lioness looking out for her cubs. She is a great advocate for children and the staff that care for them.”
Fleetwood went on to also praise all the donors and CAPA volunteers she has worked with.
“I can’t tell you the breadth and depth of the kindness and generosity of the donors and volunteers that have made the last nine years such a rich experience for not only the residents, but for me,” she said. “They have ensured that the children celebrate birthdays, holidays and go on special outings throughout the year. They are the life blood of CAPA and have helped us to stay viable and meet the needs of the ‘least of these’ of our community.”
Fleetwood adds, “I also can’t sing the praises of Susan Cato, executive director, too loud. She has been a great friend and colleague for many years and became an inspirational ‘boss’ during my tenure at CAPA. Job well done, Susan!”
Job well done to you too, Fleetwood!
This sentiment was echoed by Tina, who said, “Fleetwood was a wonderful shelter director and I leaned a lot under her supervision and she’ll be greatly missed by all the employees and children at CAPA.”
When it comes to the future of CAPA, Tina said, “My plans are to be the best Shelter Director I can be for CAPA, remembering always to put the children first and making sure their needs are met. After all that is what CAPA is all about.”