In 1983, Lucy Runyon, Jayne Ellison and Kay Mansolill were three Palm Beach County women who saw too many “new, ‘families in need’ who were temporarily down on their luck and too modest to ask for help,” according to Lucy Runyon.
The first family they helped was mentioned on a local radio station. A family of four had moved from Texas in search of a brighter future for the father in the computer field. They had packed up the family and their modest savings, and just before reaching Florida, one of the children became quite ill, requiring hospitalization. With all the savings going to hospital bills, the family was destitute. When they arrived in West Palm Beach with no place to live, they moved under the Royal Palm Bridge. Their story was mentioned on a local radio station, and the ladies promptly sought the family out, and moved them into a motel. Runyon, an employee at the First National Bank in Palm Beach, conferred with their Board of Directors, and called her lawyer. Twelve hours later, the first Board of Directors for Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches was born. The ladies helped them find an apartment and two weeks later, helped the father find employment. Their initial success was contagious, and fueled their energy to help more families.
Mansolill, Ellison and Runyon developed a “catalog” of families to adopt, and shopped local CEOs. With persistence and determination, 50 families were adopted in the first year. Our founders focused on the principle that investing in your community is a sound business decision. Some of the original companies that assisted in 1983 are still involved in our efforts today.
While our founders continued to garner and solicit support from community businesses, they also focused on assisting their families with life skills necessary to be self-sufficient. They taught families how to shop for and prepare inexpensive, nutritious food, and worked on their self-esteem by taking them to beauty and barber shops and out to lunch. Monsolill, Ellison and Runyon knew the impact that this would have on people’s lives, and they wanted to reinforce that their situation was only temporary. During the holidays, the ladies delivered gifts aboard a West Palm Beach Fire truck.
More than 35 years later, we have stayed true to the dream of our founders, and over the years we have provided assistance to more than 48,000 Palm Beach County families with children — positively impacting the lives of more than 130,000 residents in our community.