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Jan. 11 – Reuben Watson, Director of Outreach and Advancement, Sunrise Children’s Services

Posted on Jan 10, 2024

LEXINGTON, KY – The Rotary Club of Lexington held its weekly meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, at The Mane on Main, Chase Bank building on Main St. The guest speaker was  Reuben Watson, Director of Outreach and Advancement at Sunrise Children’s Services.

This meeting will also be on Zoom. For the Zoom link please email, [email protected].

If you would like to have lunch, please contact [email protected] to reserve your meal.

Today we are privileged to hear from Reuben Watson, the Director of Outreach and Advancement at Sunrise Children’s Services, a non-profit providing therapeutic foster care, residential therapeutic treatments, and community-based services throughout the Commonwealth.  Reuben is a dedicated professional with a passion for making a positive impact on the lives of others and has been instrumental in serving families across Kentucky for the past two years. In this leadership role, Reuben has demonstrated exceptional commitment and empathy, embodying the values of compassion and service.

A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a major in Communication Studies, Reuben’s academic journey laid the foundation for his dedication to effective communication and community engagement. Despite facing adversity in his past, marked by experiences of abuse, neglect, and suffering, Reuben has not only overcome these challenges but has also transformed his life into a source of inspiration for others.

In his previous role as the Volunteer and Guest Services Manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities, Reuben honed his skills in community outreach and empowerment. Drawing from personal experiences of navigating through foster homes, crisis units, mental hospitals, and overcoming battles with suicide and self-worth, Reuben has emerged as a beacon of resilience and hope.

Reuben’s commitment to giving back is reflected in his involvement in mentoring programs and various community initiatives throughout his career. His journey from a life of pain to one of empowerment and grace is a testament to his resilience and determination. Through Sunrise Children’s Services, Reuben seizes the opportunity to leverage his personal story as a tool to inspire and bring hope to those who are hurting.

As a loving husband for eight years and a devoted father to two beautiful daughters, Reuben’s personal life is a testament to his values of family and commitment. His unwavering dedication to serving others, coupled with his ability to transform personal challenges into opportunities for empowerment, positions Reuben as a valuable asset in the field of outreach and community advancement.

Sunrise Children’s Services is a faith-based ministry, affiliated with Kentucky Baptists since 1869.  Its mission and values include serving as “a home for children who have been abused and neglected – children whose lives have been scarred by unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse – and who have been removed from their homes.”

Reuben, welcome to the Rotary Club of Lexington!

Rotary in Review 1-25-24


      Last week’s inspirational speaker was Reuben Watson, Director of Outreach and Advancement at Sunrise Children’s Services, a non-profit providing therapeutic foster care throughout the Commonwealth.  Services include residential facilities in Danville, Somerset, Glendale (Elizabethtown) and Louisville, as well as treatment and residential psychiatric facilities.  Their service area ranges from Pikeville to Paducah.  As a faith-based organization, Children’s Sunrise Services provide a therapy modality that is focused on empathy, sympathy and unconditional love.  The organization was founded in 1869 by a group of Kentucky Baptist women in Louisville who wanted to address the needs of the homeless and orphans after the Civil War.  Today, it is the largest private service provider in the state.

Watson said that abused and neglected children is an epidemic.  More than 8,000 children are in foster care in Kentucky, ranking the Commonwealth sixth in the nation.  He reported that more than 630 children have been adopted from Sunrise, finding their “forever home.”  This is an incredible statistic since many of the children in their facilities have anger management issues, making it difficult to find foster homes.  On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being an infant, most of their children rate a 4 or 5.  Sunrise offers a safe haven for the forgotten and overlooked.  Many of the boys have been abused and many of the girls have been involved in the sex traffic trade.

Sunrise Children’s Services is very personal to Watson.  He was abused and neglected as a child and tried to commit suicide twice before the age of 8.  He had anger and rage issue but Sunrise stepped in and said “we’re going to help you, give you a bed and food.”  He credits Sunrise with making him the man that he is today.  “Seeing the light come back on” led him to triumph and personal victory.  Since every state does not have a foster care system and Sunrise is a non-profit, building partnerships is critical.  He works with public school systems across the Commonwealth to provide teachers for their facilities.  Two years ago, only two Lexington businesses were supporting their efforts.  Today, there are seventeen, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Malibu Jack’s, Goodfellas Pizza, and Crank and Boom Ice Cream.  He said they can always use volunteers, whether it is to take children out for pizza, shopping trips to the mall or reading and tutoring.  What a wonderful opportunity for demonstrating “Service Above Self.”

By interweaving his personal story with the amazing work of Sunrise, Watson clearly connected with his Rotary audience, who expressed their feelings with a standing ovation.  Well done, Reuben!

  • Paul Chewning


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