Highfields builds upon the vision of late founder

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Recently mid-Michigan said goodbye to a man who made a big difference in his life helping others.

Judge Robert Drake was a judge, a father, a mentor and a friend and he helped create a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and their families: Highfields.

Thanks to his forethought and hard work more than 6,000 people have a better and brighter future.

Ingham County Probate Court Judge George Economy says “in my life, I’ve been very fortunate to meet many pillars in the community. Bob Drake was one of those pillars”.

A pillar, but also the foundation. One of the first to build upon a need and idea for what would ultimately become “Highfields.”

It started where “The Judge” spent much of his time, the courtroom.

“It was his passion,” reflects Circuit Court Judge Janelle Lawless. “It was something he was committed to, was to helping the families and children that he saw, that came before him. As a probate judge, he got exposed to that, saw a need in our community and wanted to address it.”

For former Highfields CEO Carl Latona, Highfields has become a special community. “Highfields is an idea. An idea that the community was responsible for its children,” says Latona. “It’s not a place anymore. It’s people who just have sense that they need to share their lives and help other people be responsible.”

Currently Highfields serves families in 11 Michigan counties.

Their staff helps children problem-solve and make better choices with everything from behavioral therapy and anger management to helping with employment and providing after school programs to their residential treatment program, and relapse prevention.

The list goes on and on.

And so does the list of kids Highfields has helped over the last 54 years.

Tom Drake, Judge Drake’s son, sees what Highfields has become and how “it has expanded way beyond whatever vision that Dad had, and he just loved the fact that it’s the result of a combination of different personalities, different thoughts and different leaders.”

And while the Highfields community has lost one of those leaders the judge’s mission, and vision, lives on.

Judge Economy claims “I’d hate to think of a world, that Highfields didn’t exist in. I don’t know, as a judge, what I would do to assist some of these kids, if I didn’t have the programs that they offer and the assistance that they lend.”

Judge Bob Drake said it best when he said “the young people that have come to Highfields have shown us that we have started something that is very valuable to the community. I’m just proud that I can be a part of the building of Highfields.”

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