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2010 Most Influential Women Honoree: Francine Pratt

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As executive director of Isabel’s House, the Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks, Francine Pratt has a direct role in helping area children and families work through difficult situations.

Isabel’s House, a project of Junior League of Springfield, provides a safe haven for children ages newborn to 12 while their parents and guardians work through crisis situations, such as homelessness or overwhelming parental stress.

Pratt is no stranger to adversity, and she says her proudest accomplishment is that her three adult children – a naval officer, a Navy veteran/aspiring police officer and a soon-to-be fireman, respectively – are focused on their career endeavors and being good citizens.

“I was a single parent 14 years after leaving a mentally and physically abusive marriage with just our clothes and a broken-down car,” she says, noting that she and her children rebuilt their lives without a support system in a town that was 600 miles from friends, family and familiar territory.

“To make ends meet, I started odd jobs where I could take my children with me,” Pratt says, noting that those gigs included modeling and cleaning apartments.

“I started a small catering business that grew into a 20-year success story, with year-round contracts that included catering for several music artists that included Kenny G, as well as Muhammad Ali and other celebrities and later opened a restaurant,” she says.

When Pratt was in her early 40s, she returned to college, earning a bachelor’s in business management from University of Phoenix in Sacramento, Calif.

Prior to joining Isabel’s House, she was a project manager for Reston, Va.-based Maximus, developing the infrastructure for privatized child support enforcement in Missouri, California, Illinois and Michigan.

“As a project manager leading 200-plus staff, I increased program effectiveness for child support enforcement … while maintaining strategic alliance with elected appointed and community officials,” Pratt says. She also worked at the California Department of Child Support Services as the regional administrator managing the state-administered child support program for seven counties. In Missouri, Pratt was the principal assistant for the director of the Missouri Family Support Division.

“In less than three months, I created staff work teams that reduced state government costs and brought government closer to constituents while streamlining processes,” she says.

Pratt served as a mentor for a homeless mothers’ program affiliated with the Women’s Improvement Center in Sacramento and created Young People on the Move, a program for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council, in Sacramento and Springfield.

Pratt also is co-founder and facilitator of The Gathering, a grassroots organization aimed at empowering youth in public schools.

“The Gathering led to my election as president for the NAACP Springfield Chapter, thereby
restoring credibility and effectiveness of the organization and increasing membership from 15 paid members to 120 in less than a year,” Pratt says.[[In-content Ad]]

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