They are a county attorney, a judge, former school counselors and a grandma.
They and others have come together with one goal:
Build a children's home in Butler County so children's hearts can be protected when they are removed from homes that aren't safe.
"I don't think you can do too much," said Butler County Attorney Darrin Devinney. "There's no end to protecting these child victims. They are truly innocent victims."
Sunshine Children's Home, which will be built in northwest Andover on land donated by a church, will primarily serve children from Butler, Greenwood and Elk counties. It will temporarily house 10 to 15 children, from infants to 17-year-olds.
A main reason for building the five-bedroom, farm-style home in Butler County is that it will keep children closer to their largely rural environments, supporters say. Children from the three counties now are sent to the Wichita Children's Home.
A construction date hasn't been set. Organizers are in the early stages of fundraising for the project that is expected to cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.
But it will be built. Believe it. These folks are determined.
"The need is there," said Suzi Thien, executive director of the El Dorado-based Sunlight Children's Advocacy and Rights Foundation, or SCARF.
Since it was founded in 2004, SCARF has been all about protecting children's hearts. The children's home is the second of three projects on the group's list to make that happen.
In the early 2000s, Jan Satterfield — then the Butler County attorney and now a district judge for Butler, Elk and Greenwood counties — was pushing for a children's home. At the same time, Andover police Detective Randy Coffman was seeking a children's advocacy center where child victims could be interviewed in a safe and child-friendly setting.
The two women joined forces and helped found SCARF. In 2007, the advocacy center was established in El Dorado.
Instead of going to a cold and frightening police station, children now find themselves in an environment that includes an intriguing saltwater fish tank, appealing murals and police interviewers who don't carry guns or wear uniforms.
The third project will be to set up a safe visitation and exchange center for children and their parents who are under court orders.
But for now, getting the children's home built is the focus.
"Kids could need this home for a variety of reasons — abuse or neglect, runaways, broken homes — anything that requires children taken into protective custody," Devinney said.
He saw all of that and more while heading up the county attorney's office's juvenile division before taking over Satterfield's position.
So did Thien while working as a school counselor for 20 years in several districts, including Towanda and Andover.
"Those abuse situations weren't always handled in friendly ways," Thien said.
She began volunteering at SCARF, then became its first executive director in 2008.
Thien heads up the home's task force, which includes people from a broad range of backgrounds, including Devinney, Satterfield, Coffman, retired school counselors and representatives from law enforcement, mental health and the county health department.
Plus Cindy Miles.
An 'unfamiliar world'
Miles is the grandma.
Miles, community and campus relations director for Butler Community College, had a limited involvement with the children's home project as a member of a Leadership Butler Class of 2009.
She's also the maternal grandmother of 15-month-old Evan Coen, who died in October 2009 from injuries — including skull fractures —inflicted over different times, according to Wichita police.
Her daughter's 25-year-old live-in boyfriend was arrested, but later released without being charged. The case remains open.
After that traumatic event, Miles said she threw herself into the children's home project. "It's my way of remembering my grandson."
It's also about her granddaughter, who was 3 at the time her grandson died and was living with her daughter. The children's father had died in a car accident six months earlier.
The little girl was removed from the home and was temporarily housed at the Wichita Children's Home before being placed in a Wichita foster-care home for four months.
"My granddaughter went into this unfamiliar world," Miles said. "It was very traumatizing for her. I only got to see her one hour a month for those four months. She would cry because she wanted to go home with me. It was heartbreaking."
She since has adopted the girl and her daughter's 3 1/2-month-old son. The girl, now 4, is doing much better.
"But I've had her more than a year, and she still asks every day, 'Where will I be going today? Who will I be with?' " Miles said. "She needs the reassurance that no one is going to come in and take her away."
A rural setting
If the Butler County home had existed, it wouldn't have been able to help Miles' granddaughter, who lived in Wichita. And there's no guarantee that a child who comes to the Sunshine Children's Home won't have to spend time in foster care.
But Miles and others are convinced the rural setting of the children's home will make the shift less difficult for a child.
That's not a knock on the Wichita Children's Home, which took in 49 children from Butler, Greenwood and Elk counties in 2010, Thien said.
"Wichita has a wonderful facility and does a great job," she said. "But Wichita is an urban center, and our kids are more rural. We'll be able to keep siblings together, keep children closer to their schools, family and familiar surroundings."
Sarah Robinson, executive director of the Wichita Children's Home, supports the idea of a home in Butler County. Wichita's home admits about 2,000 children each year, with about 1,500 of those taken out of homes by police.
"I can see (SCARF's) point," she said. "It's tough to travel kids over here one night and then turn around and send them back the next morning."
The homes are working so they don't duplicate services, Thien said. They also are considering plans to collaborate to reduce costs, such as combining purchasing power to buy food and share human resources to screen potential staff.
"I'm encouraged by this," Robinson said. "Those are good people (at SCARF). Good people are going to do good things for kids."
Sunshine Children's Home has donated land because Eric Hauck, the worship pastor at Hope Community Church, gazed out at the church's 31 acres and wondered:
"Why don't we build an orphanage out there?"
He mentioned the idea to senior pastor Steve Weldom, who passed the thought on to Tom Howland, the associate pastor and SCARF's board president.
The church's leadership readily approved the idea and last month, it donated three acres on the southwest corner of the property for the home.
"That was huge," Howland said.
The home also will get a strong volunteer force from the church, although volunteers will have to be screened.
"We're very excited to have an opportunity for a ministry so close by," said Angie Friesen, who co-leads a women's ministry at Hope that helps parents work through the adoptive process. "One of our focuses is removing barriers. There aren't many barriers there with it right there on our property."
The home had two other offers of donated land, but they were remotely removed from services.
The church's donated land is in a rural setting, yet it's just a few blocks from the Kansas Medical Center and is protected by Andover's police and fire services. It's easily accessible, just off 21st Street and just west of the Kansas Turnpike.
The children will also have access to the church's playground equipment and picnic areas.
Sunshine Children's Home will provide care around the clock, seven days a week. It will have an open feel to make it "as positive an experience as possible," Thien said.
"We'll start small," she added. "It takes a certain type of person to work with these kids. We have to be careful about the people we hire."
Fundraisers over the past two years have brought in about $200,000 for the project that is expected to cost as much as $2 million, Thien said.
About $750,000 to $1 million of that will go to constructing the home, she said, while the rest will be for such things as furnishings, a security system and possibly setting up an endowment to help support the home during its early stages.
"We'd love to go out of business," Thien said, "but it's not going to happen. There's more abuse out there than we even read about.
"We have to be there for the children as best we can."