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2011 40 Under 40 Honoree: Sondra Uzzell

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As agency director and the only staff member for Ambassadors for Children, Sondra Uzzell has a long list of duties.

Ambassadors for Children is an operating agency of Springfield Area Council of Churches which serves abused and neglected children, as well as foster children from Greene County. Programs provide clothing, shoes, tutoring, hygiene items, sports registrations, eyeglasses, summer camp fees and more to approximately 700 children annually.

In addition to overseeing volunteers and programs for the Council of Churches organization, Uzzell is in charge of fundraising and daily operations, setting new service records for each of the past two years. She also leads the agency’s volunteers and manages its programs, which have served more than 4,500 area children since 1999.

“I have a tremendous amount of public exposure in my position and have completed more than 150 public presentations to bring awareness of the issues of child abuse and neglect, foster care and volunteer recruitment for our programs,” Uzzell says.

Though she is faced with plenty of hard work, Uzzell is encouraged by watching children and families make strides toward better lives because of effective case management through Ambassadors for Children.

“I believe the opportunities they receive through Ambassadors for Children influence their success daily,” she says. “They may have brand new clothes to wear or contact lenses that give them the confidence to introduce themselves to a new friend, or the tutoring assistance they need to graduate from high school.”

Beginning in 2008, Uzzell led the collaborative effort to launch the Adopt-A-Caseworker program in Greene County, mobilizing the community to help meet specific needs for local abused children.

“It is the first program of its kind in the state of Missouri, and there are only three other similar programs in the country,” Uzzell says. “We have had requests from as far as Atlanta, Ga., to replicate our program, and it is gaining notoriety across the state and beyond.”

In addition to her professional responsibilities, Uzzell is an active volunteer for Ronald McDonald House. She also serves on the Greene County Advisory Council, which supports and advises the Greene County Children’s Division, and the advisory council for Isabel’s House-Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks. She is involved with the local chapter of Missouri Compassion and the Violence-Free Families Coalition.

Clearly, Uzzell is passionate about helping children in vulnerable positions, perhaps because she’s been there herself. As an adolescent, she was briefly placed in state custody, fortunately under the direct supervision of her caring grandparents.

“Their courage, sacrifice and support have guided my life path,” Uzzell says. “I believe I will spend most of my life empowering others to reach their full potential in order to pay forward a gift that was given to me as a child.”

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