Fifty-two years ago a haven for neglected, abandoned, or abused children opened right in the heart of Lawton. Just north of the bus barn housing buses that carry most children to school weekdays is the J. Roy Dunning Children's Shelter, an emergency shelter for newborn to 12-year-olds. The children's shelter is a non-profit organization supported primarily by the United Way of Lawton-Fort Sill and by donations from the community. J. Roy Dunning is foremost a shelter care program aimed at "creating a better transition for abused, abandoned, and neglected children entering into foster care."
"However, being non-profit, the only way the shelter has to care for the children is through whatever United Way provides," said Hope Porche, supervising director. "Beyond that, the community is really the only source for the numerous necessities needed in child rearing.
"We are always in need of items to care for the children we take care of, especially the younger ones," she said. "Baby and toddler items, such as onesies and infant hygiene items, are greatly needed." But, she added, most important are diapers and formula.
Porche and several other staff members, such as 20-year employee Supervisor Sharon Atkinson, work in rotating shifts in order to have someone at the shelter 24 hours a day, who is awake, alert, and ready to care for the children. Young clients from most demographics and ethnicities have been through the shelter, demonstrating the program's commitment to serve all children, even though the average time of stay for a child is only nine days.