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CFCA celebrating 30-year anniversary

November 17, 2011

Christian Foundation for Children and Aging will mark 30 years of serving people living in poverty on Nov. 20.

Incorporated in 1981, CFCA is now a leading sponsorship organization serving people of all faiths in 22 developing countries.

Meet the founders and listen to them describe the early years of CFCA
in their own words.

"CFCA has been resilient and full of life over these 30 years," said Paco Wertin, CFCA chief executive officer. "Rooted in the Word of God, Catholic social teaching and the instincts and commitment of the founders, we have forged a path into solidarity with families who are forging a path out of poverty."

The Tolle and Hentzen families worked together to create CFCA and the development of its Hope for a Family sponsorship program. The founders were Bob, Bud and Jim Hentzen; Nadine Pearce, their sister; and Jerry Tolle.

Tolle and Bob Hentzen had worked for many years with families living in poverty in Latin America. They witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of poverty.

They also saw the vibrancy and potential of people in poverty who were struggling heroically just to survive, and sought to connect them with people of good will in the U.S. who wanted to help.

Early years

The first 10 years of CFCA welcomed the elderly as well as children into the sponsorship program, oversaw an expansion into Asia and Africa and established mission awareness trips, Wertin said.

In the next decade, the CFCA office moved from a farmhouse to its present location in central Kansas City and also established its church outreach program.

Co-founder Bob Hentzen embarked on a pilgrimage of faith in 1996, walking from Kansas City to Guatemala to show his love for people living in poverty and also to show them that someone cared.

Bob entering Pratt Stadium in Valparaiso, Chile
CFCA Co-founder and President Bob Hentzen finishes Walk2gether in
Valparaiso, Chile, on June 6, 2011.

He continued that walk Dec. 29, 2009, beginning in Guatemala and heading south to Chile, during Walk2gether.

The second solidarity walk reached the finish on June 6, 2011. About 3,000 sponsored children, elderly, family members and staff representing numerous CFCA communities cheered as Hentzen and the walkers arrived in Pratt Stadium in downtown Valparaiso, Chile.

Hentzen addressed the crowd by singing several songs and encouraging families to carry on the spirit of the walk.

"People ask me, 'Now what?'" he said, strumming a guitar. "I tell them, 'The adventure is just beginning, because the real walk is for you, for God's people.'"

'Community of compassion, service'

Wertin said in the last decade of its existence, CFCA has welcomed technological changes, including a revamped website and social media efforts on its blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.

CFCA also conducted its first concerts, Zamboanga and Shine a Light, and finished a documentary film, Rise and Dream, which will be released in 2012. These efforts are aimed at telling the stories of the people CFCA serves in a way that connects deeply with audiences.

"Over these past few years, the CFCA Hope for a Family program has guided our work with the sponsored children, the youth, the elderly and their families," Wertin said. "CFCA sponsors walk a path into solidarity with the sponsored and their families who are walking a path out of poverty, both as full members of this prophetic community of compassion and service."

CFCA serves more than 300,000 sponsored children and aging friends who are supported and encouraged by more than a quarter million sponsors.

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