Sunrise Children's Services launches fundraising drive to fill - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sunrise Children's Services launches fundraising drive to fill budget gap

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Sunrise Children's Services, which used to be Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, recently went a through a major controversy over its hiring policy.

The dispute is over, but the aftershocks are still being felt

Sunrise has been caring for at-risk kids since just after Civil War. But last year, when then-director, Bill Smithwick, proposed changing the Sunrise hiring policy to allow open gays and lesbians, it caused a backlash. Some churches withheld support.

Smithwick resigned and new leadership took over, but Sunrise is facing a more-than $7 million budget shortfall.

"At the end of last year, that hurt. There is no doubt that hurt," said Sunrise Acting Director Dale Suttles. "But I will tell you that we're so encouraged."

Encouraged because the Kentucky Baptist Convention is launching a fundraising drive to help Sunrise.

It's called "Shine" and it includes a video featuring kids helped by Sunrise. It's being sent to more than 2,000 Baptist churches.

"Now that our churches have confidence in the leadership of Sunrise and the direction of Sunrise, we'll give them the opportunity to re-invest in this ministry to children," said Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

But with its policy against hiring gays still in place, Sunrise could face an even bigger challenge down the road; the possible loss of government funding, which is the bulk of Sunrise's $27 million budget.

Chitwood says, for now, the agency is simply focusing on providing the best care to kids.

"And we know that, at least for now, the state appreciates that, needs the ministry of Kentucky Baptists to these children, thrilled to have the relationship. And we'll just see where it goes," he said.

In fact, Sunrise is looking to expand into western and northern Kentucky.

"And this campaign is a new emphasis that Sunrise is here and Sunrise going to be here to stay," said Suttles.

 The "Shine" fundraising campaign begins in May.

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