Published: May 2nd, 2012
Among the statements of customer satisfaction rules and business standards in Bartow Fords’ Company Philosophy, Ernest Smith instructed the dealership, “To be actively involved in our communities.” Along with the awards won celebrating how successful we are, the opportunity to help in our local community and be involved in foundations and charities throughout Polk County is the most invaluable reward.
One foundation Bartow Ford aids is the George W. Harris Jr. Runaway and Youth Crisis Center, also known as “The Harris House.” Working alongside Youth and Family Alternatives Inc., the Harris House shelters children and teens ages 10-17 who: have run away from home and/or are homeless; have been kicked out of their homes by parents or guardians; need short-term shelter due to family conflict; have been abused or neglected; or waiting to be placed in foster care.
Bob Ambrose, Vice President at Bartow Ford, has been actively involved with the Harris House. Upon his first involvement with the shelter, Mr Ambrose had no idea the impact it would make on his life. “I did not realize the scope of problems that exist in our community with relationships between parents and children,” said Bob. “The Harris House shelter is not for kids that are in trouble, it’s for kids that don’t have a place to sleep. And the object is to change the kids’ lives and hopefully the parents’ lives to try to get them to be able to live a life that will be on the right track because these kids are falling through the cracks.”
The shelter can house up to twelve boys and twelve girls at a time comfortably. Youth receive a few items of clothing and transportation to and from school and work, if they hold a job.
Representatives from the Harris House will respond to any call at any time, even in the middle of the night.
It is possible you’ve seen a “Safe Place” sign in public areas without realizing it. The Safe Place symbol indicates where at risk youths can go 24/7 to get into contact with a representative from the Harris House. The Harris House works with twelve different Safe Place locations in Polk County, some which include Winter Haven’s bus service Winter Haven Area Transit, Lakeland’s bus service Citrus Connection, the Salvation Army of Lakeland, and Bartow Fire Department. In the shape of a diamond, the symbol shows a human figure reaching out to take in another figure.
Steve Hendrix, a Bartow Ford Fleet Department representative, has worked with a number of different organizations to raise funds for the Harris House and regularly sends a personal donation to the foundation. Just as Bob expressed, Steve did not anticipate the impression that the Harris House would make on him. “I approached Bob Ambrose on it and he told me what was going on with it and how it was set up and what it did for the community. It really surprised me; it was a really big shock that there were that many kids displaced. It touched my heart that it was right in my back door and I didn’t know about it,” Steve expressed. “The young people that I know are like my son, and my friends’ kids, that would hopefully never have a need for something like that. I was really surprised that there are that many kids that don’t have a family they could turn to and how many kids got kicked out of their homes because their parents couldn’t put up with them. They could end up being productive members of society.”
Organizations such as the Harris House put into perspective the struggles that can encompass a young person’s life, and are witness to how one safe haven can change a persons future course forever. These organizations are life changers.
For more information about the George W. Harris Jr. Runaway and Youth Crisis Center click here.