Tracy Walnoha was today's speaker.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree at Clarion University and her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.  She has worked for a variety of businesses including GMAC and Bristol Myers Squibb.  Tracy has also worked in her husband’s family business, a national bible study company, and recently worked with a non-profit to send missionaries to Haiti. She has been at Watchful Shepherd for two and a half years, and was appointed Executive Director in 2018 when the previous Executive Director retired.  She lives with her husband, three children and the family dog in the South Hills.
 
Tracy gave an engaging presentation regarding Watchful Shepherd, a charitable non-profit which provides devices to homes where child safety has become an issue.  Watchful Shepherd’s Founder, Joe Femiani, developed the charity over 25 years ago to address the problem of unsafe children in homes where there had been child abuse.  Femiani, who owned Rice Electric, passed away in 2003, but the organization he started has continued to play an important role in the protection of children.  Watchful Shepherd has a long-standing relationship with the McMurray Rotary Club, which provided seed funding to initiate the charity.  Tracy is making presentations to other Rotary Clubs to increase awareness of the charity and also to secure financial support. 
 
The device is placed in the home and records information and transmits a signal to authorities when the child presses the button.   Each child is also given a corresponding device which is worn like a wrist watch and can be pressed when the child feels threatened.  For the device to be placed in a home, a qualifying agency has to be chosen to monitor it.  This could be set up on a voluntary basis, although it is frequently done by court order, and it works better when there is a court order.  The courts get involved because of a history of child-related problems in cases where a parent or other family member wants to have the child in his or her care.  There are typically agreements with Children and Youth Services (CYS).  The families already being monitored by CYS personnel typically agree to the devices as a way to bring children back into the household and keep the family together.  The program includes a staff of volunteers who are trained to follow protocols when a distress signal is sent.  When the button is pressed, the police come to the house.  The device also begins recording when the button is pushed and these recordings can be used in court. 
 
The devises are leased from Connect America for $25/month ($300/year) per device.  This arrangement helps to ensure that the devices are kept current and in good working order, and eliminates the need for Watchful Shepherd to maintain an inventory.  There are 50 to 75 devices in use in homes around the state, with the majority of those in Washington County where the organization started.  “In over 25 years, there have been no cases of domestic violence in homes with this device.”  Hearing this, the Club was inspired to donate $300 to lease one device for one year.