Meet Our Hometown Hero: Children in Crisis’ Ken Hair

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A Legacy of Compassion and Leadership

By Doug Stauffer

Ken Hair, a name synonymous with compassion and dedication, has been the face, heart and soul of Children in Crisis (CIC) for 18 years, leaving an indelible mark on the community and the lives of children. After nearly two decades as president and CEO, Ken Hair has retired from the organization, renowned for providing homes and keeping brothers and sisters together, many of whom have been abused, neglected and abandoned.

CIC Ken HairI recall my first Chamber Breakfast where Ken’s influence was evident. During the 50/50 drawing, the winner donated her winnings to Ken and CIC, a gesture embodying the spirit of generosity that Ken himself championed. Who was this Ken Hair and why did so many Chamber members wish to donate their winnings to him and this organization? I would soon learn.

Under Ken’s leadership, Children in Crisis, established in 2002, has flourished. The organization has provided homes for more than 1,000 young children, offering them refuge and stability. Ken;s journey, filled with challenges always stayed the course seen in the tangible impact of CIC’s work. Upon retirement, his leadership earned him the Golden Deeds Award from the Exchange Clubs. The Emerald Coast Public Relations Organization (ECPRO) also presented Ken with the inaugural “Ken Hair Non-Profit of the Year Award at the FWB Chamber’s First Friday Breakfast on December 1st. This award will be given each year and carries Ken’s name and spirit of excellence.

Ken’s heartfelt interactions often moved people to tears, reflecting the depths of his love and life. Recognition of his commitment was exemplified at his retirement ceremony when Ft. Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson dubbed him the honorary mayor of “The Children’s Neighborhood”—the residential-style foster care neighborhood conceived and managed by CIC. The mayor also presented Ken with a key to the City of Ft. Walton Beach.

CIC expanded under Ken’s guidance to include an Emergency Shelter, family foster homes and the Opportunity Home for young adults aging out of foster care. CIC’s influence extends beyond its immediate community highlighted by initiatives like the Pensacola Bay Area Impact 100 and a significant land donation/lease valued at $3 million from Northwest Florida State College,

Ken’s personal and military background is a testament to his life of service. A retired Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force, his military career laid the foundation for his work in child wellbeing. The discipline, integrity and leadership skills honed in the Air Force were instrumental in his successful management of CIC. Even the Air Force recognized his excellence with the coveted titles of NCO and Senior NCO of the year.

Ken’s humility and empathy have endeared him to colleagues and community members alike. His ability to connect with diverse groups has been crucial in building partnerships and garnering support for CIC. Reflecting on his journey, Hair credits his military experience for preparing him for the challenges of leading this non-profit: Ken has said, “The skills and values I learned in the Air Force have been integral to my work with Children in Crisis…It’s about serving a cause greater than oneself, whether in uniform or in our community.”

As Ken navigates through his second retirement, his legacy stands as a powerful testament to the extraordinary impact one individual can have in shaping a better future for others. Ken’s life and work evoke some parallels to the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This movie portrayed a man who did not realize the profound impact one person can have on his community. Just as the film highlights this reality, Ken’s contributions make us ponder the different landscape of many on the Emerald Coast without his influence. His journey and achievements underscore the immeasurable value of selfless dedication and the ripple effect of kindness and commitment in a community.

As we honor his contributions, it’s clear that Ken’s service and leadership have left an indelible mark, both to the nation and in the hearts and lives of countless children and families. For more information or to support Children in Crisis, please visit www.childrenincrisisfl.org. Let Ken know you want his legacy to live on.