The sound of crinkling wrapping paper with a wave of excitement in a room full of children opening Christmas gifts is a treasured holiday memory for many.
At TS Bank and Children’s Square, this memory is an annual tradition between the two organizations, stemming from the humble story of a young girl. In 2010, Shianne Guttau was the first introduction to Children’s Square for TS Bank and the Guttau family. And, it all began with a phone call.
That summer, Josh Guttau, CEO of TS Banking Group, was in a position where heart and policy would intersect. A woman from his church called with an immediate household financial need. Fortunately, TS Bank was able to quickly help her and her family, including Shianne, who was in foster care at that home.
Josh and his wife, Shelly, knew the foster mom through church, but little did they know Shianne would eventually join the Guttau family as a foster child just five months later.
“My first memory of meeting Josh and Shelly (dad and mom), was when I was attending their church. This is where I began to build a relationship with them,” Shianne Guttau said. “After some time my foster mom then placed us at Children’s Square, and Shelly came and visited us a few different times.”
Children’s Square U.S.A. has a rich 137-year history of caring for children from birth to 21 and their families, meeting individualized needs, instilling hope and helping restore lives. Each year they serve over 2,500 individuals.
“When Josh and Shelly asked me to come and live with them, it made me so happy that I would have a family to call mine,” Shianne said. “It was hard transitioning into a stable environment, but after some time it became the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Josh and Shelly Guttau took Shianne into their home as a foster child at age 13 and later adopted her at 16. The first to graduate high school from her biological family, Shianne was the former captain of her high school cheerleading team and a national honor student. She recently earned an associate’s degree in psychology from Iowa Western Community College, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and is engaged to be married this June to her fiancé, Cole.
Since a college missions trip in Kazakstan, Shelly said she sensed a calling toward adoption. To think the daughter they would one day adopt was living only 30 minutes away from their hometown, is one of the best gifts to continually unwrap.
“To understand my story I think it’s important to understand where I came from, which is understanding my biological parents,” said Shianne. “Both my parents came from homes where they had no support and they didn’t have a lot of love.”
Shianne’s biological parents did not finish high school, faced a teen pregnancy and were married soon after, then sometime later turned toward drugs and alcohol. Shianne was the second oldest of nine children. Her parents were unable to hold down jobs, and as a result, were not able to live in one place for a long period of time. Additionally, they were evicted from multiple houses and even had a house burn down.
“Life was hard for my family when I was growing up. It seemed like nothing ever went right for us. I remember living in places like cars, motels and people’s houses just for a couple nights,” Shianne said. “We also stayed in shelters and different care facilities, including Children’s Square.”
Shianne recalls her parents struggle with substance abuse and her dad being in prison for a while. Due to this, Shianne and her siblings were in and out of school and in between physical addresses.
“There were times when many of my siblings were placed at Children’s Square during the same time or overlapping times. My sister and I were always there together at Children’s Square, and we would share a room.”
The mission of Children’s Square is “to teach, every day, the values and life skills essential to a successful life – one full of caring, contribution and commitment.” Their three major areas of services provided include behavioral health, education services, and child welfare/emergency services.
Shianne’s first experience with Children’s Square was at the age of 10. She stayed there three different times.
“I remember being scared during my first visit, and the staff was so open and caring. They explained every step with me and communicated the steps that would follow. The staff members were so kind, and that is one thing that I will always remember about Children’s Square.”
Shianne continues, “My experience at Children’s Square gave me a safe place to live several times while homes were arranged to take my siblings and I. This helped us to feel comfortable. It was a warm place to sleep, a place to eat and a place that was safe.”
After the first introduction to Children’s Square through Shianne, many in the bank family really wanted to be more involved in some way, especially around Christmas. Now, seven years later, employees help buy gifts for children at Children’s Square at Christmas time. Mick and Judy Guttau, chairman and board secretary of the TS Banking Group Board, respectively, dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the festivities.
There are many places where TS Bank has intersected directly with Children’s Square, but the most important interaction and deepest intersection is with Shianne.
Another intersection is the Children’s Square annual Jason Awards.
The Jason Awards event is held each year to raise awareness of Children’s Square by recognizing those who “exemplify its mission through their life skills and values in their personal lives, work and community contributions.”
In 2016, TS Bank and the Mick and Josh Guttau families received this award.
“To be honored with many other community members and organizations was inspiring,” said Josh Guttau. “But this was not the first Jason Award we were receiving. Shianne was our first Jason Award. Shianne is a walking, talking Jason Award. And for that, we could not be more proud.”
At the awards ceremony, Josh said Shianne had recently given him permission to walk her down the aisle. And later this week he’ll do just that.
Though this was not always the case for Shianne, her story has been a great depiction of Children’s Square vision lived to the fullest.
The Vision to See – and the value of setting an ideal for which to reach;
The Courage to Try – and the value of accepting each obstacle as a challenge to meet; and
The Will to Succeed – and the value of making the commitment to persevere.
“Love is not divisible, nor additive, but instead is multiplicative,” Josh said.
After seeing Shianne’s life transformed, Josh and Shelly feel impassioned to help spread the word about the increasing need for foster care and to consider giving the gift of a home to children at local shelters, such as Children’s Square.
“There are other Shiannes out there. This is our story, primarily Shianne’s story. Shelly and I have had the opportunity to come along for the ride,” Josh said.
Shianne concluded, “Children’s Square is a great place to get involved. For anyone wanting to help, my advice is ‘don’t overthink it.’ These children need love and support just like any other child. Without support I would not be where I am today.”
To learn more about Children’s Square or foster care visit http://childrenssquare.org.