The following is the second in a series of profiles on Champions for Children, featuring individuals in our area who have made lasting impact on the wellbeing of children.
“I don’t understand how children aren’t at the top of our funding and strategic planning,” says Mary Beth Boone. Confident, energetic, and clearly principled about priorities toward children, she keeps up with the measures and policies passing around Madison and Jefferson County’s leadership meetings. “The biggest return-on-investment is our children,” she says.
“I believe children are an investment and the bridge to our future. Our future begins and ends with how we shape, mold and protect these precious gifts. I care and want them to have a voice that doesn’t take away their innocence or destroy their futures,” she says.
The mother of two and outspoken advocate for children runs several successful businesses in the Madison community. Boone is the owner of Blush on Main, The French Tulip and The Fashion House. The storefront sits just next door to many of the city’s strategic planning and budget meetings. A position and proximity that can be helpful when advocating for children, families and the many partnerships she has worked so hard to develop.
Those partnerships include volunteering on boards such as Ohio Valley Opportunities, the Boys and Girls Club, being a strong advocate and founder of The Madison Mission. This latest passion project led to the installation of new “baby boxes” as part of Indiana’s Safe Haven law and has also included considerable work with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana. Together, she likes to point out children, mothers, and families have resources available to them “from the cradle through adulthood”. The effort now, she notes, is making sure everyone knows what’s available to them and what’s needed to keep them running.
There’s no mistaking how Boone’s life experiences led to her work, both professionally and personally. “My parents were exceptional and very invaluable in my life.”
“My parents provided us with a very good life. They were passionate hard workers and every time someone was in need, or hungry they made them feel welcomed in our home and would set an extra place at the dinner table with us ,” she says noting her family’s Italian history, “No one could turn down my mother because it was the best pasta in the Midwest!”
Guests, she says, again were always welcome in their home. “It was loving and filled with laughter . My mom also noticed, if kids didn’t have things they needed or were having issues she allowed them to have a place to come; clothing or anything to make them feel just like we did as their own children.” Further, she adds fondly, “They gave us a very good foundation and infrastructure. They made us want to be determined, educated, and have humility in order to become productive adults. The strong emphasis was always based on kindness though with everyone and not to ever discriminate as all lives are precious.”
That genuine kindness and respect for others became a central theme in Boone’s life.
“They gave us a very spirited and passionate upbringing that taught us to be very involved.”
After attending college at IU and working for a time in Jefferson County, Indiana and also residing in Jefferson County, Kentucky, she returned back again to our area. Boone’s sister, Julie, introduced her to the CAC of Southeastern Indiana in 2015. “It wasn’t long before she was talked into fundraising for that year’s annual Mardi Gras fundraiser,” Boone recalls. “We raised $57,000 that year and it just became contagious.”
In time, Boone became an advocate for a satellite children’s advocacy center in Madison, the equipment needed to run the center, and keeping a close eye on local budgets and court case data. “I want to see Jefferson County go from #1 the top of the list to the bottom in cases. I want us to be the leader in wellness for healthy children and not the most abusive of the ten-county region.” As she says it, you can’t help but believe it’s possible in due time.
In just one example, “I’d go out and talk to people and businesses and ask them if they had donated yet to the CAC,” she says. “And they’d tell me yes but, as I asked more questions, I would realize sometimes they had donated to a different cause and I would have to explain the differences between the CAC and other similar organizations. Everyone’s always confused by the acronyms.”
Guardian Ad-Litem, Court Appointed Special Advocate, or “GAL/CASA” for short, is a program where adult volunteers are trained to be partners with young children who are testifying in court, usually about matters of foster care, parental rights, and home placement. Because these cases often start with child abuse and neglect allegations, GAL/CASA’s work in court and the CAC’s forensic interview process closely complement each other but yet there are distinctions. She noted both are vital to our community.
“Working with the CAC is like a family,” says Boone. “Sometimes when you’re working with a team you don’t know if it’s a complete buy-in, but with this group is dedicated to changing lives and work fabulous together.”
Since 2015, Boone has helped contribute substantial amounts of time and funding to CAC Southeast, in addition to boosting the efforts to bring prevention education programs into area schools. “This is all so essential to everything going on right now,” says Boone. “It may have taken me 50 years to figure out how and where to focus my energy, but I’m happy I’m in the position I can do more. I want to see all children be safe in our community. All I ask is we bring awareness to saving children’s lives together.”