Recently, the McDevitts, an Angels’ Arms foster family, experienced Trout Lodge and the magic that takes place when you go there as a family. Despite going on the hottest weekend of the year, they were able to ride on a boat, swim in the lake, and ultimately just spend time as a family away from technology and their day-to-day routines.
When Mary McDevitt was asked what a trip to Trout Lodge meant to her she explained, “It refreshed and refilled us all! We were able to reconnect as a family through meals together, games played and shared experiences.”
While at Trout Lodge many Angels’ Arms children encounter “firsts” and for the McDevitt family, who take in many foster children with medical needs, they love watching each child experience the simple joys of just being a kid. “We so enjoyed watching our little guy B experience life outside of our home. He discovered ice cream and snow cones – what could be grander!”, said Mary.
The beauty of Trout Lodge is its appeal to all ages. The McDevitt’s have a wide age range of youth in their home and every child had a special time exploring, learning and growing while there. Mary mentioned “The baby loved being the center of attention – she gave all who talked to her a huge smile and warmed their hearts.”
A unique perspective that isn’t discussed much in foster care is the dynamic between a foster parents’ biological/adopted children and the foster children they care for. Mary touched on this subject and how important trips like this are to all the children living in their home, including their (as they refer to them) “forever kids”. Mary said, “Our forever kids sacrifice a lot by sharing their parents with very high needs little ones and this was just the thing we needed to say to them “we see you and we love you “.
During their time at Trout Lodge, Mary explained how one child had a breakthrough moment while on a boat ride. A young boy that came to their home six months ago, arrived receiving all of his nutrition through a g-tube and was also severely orally aversive. During this trip he came a long way, Jim, Mary’s husband, was feeding the young boy ice cream on the boat and he was anticipating and asking for more bites! A big step for this little guy! “Jim could not feed him fast enough, and there were tears, lots of tears, when the ice cream was gone.”, said Mary. A special moment they surely will not forget.
The McDevitt family is already looking forward to hopefully going back to Trout Lodge next summer! Until then, they have the amazing memories and photos from this special trip to look back on.
If you have attended an Angels’ Arms event, chances are, it was orchestrated by the Junior Board (JB). What makes this group one of the most outstanding Junior Boards in the state? Let’s find out!
In 2005, just five years after Angels’ Arms was founded, Board members Tom Smallwood and Jim Ruebsam decided to get young professionals involved in the mission by supporting the organization through fun events.
“That’s when the Bar Bounce came to be,” explained Founder and Executive Director Bess Wilfong. “This energetic group quickly increased in numbers and began to generate more funds than we could have imagined. The members made sure that they interacted with the families and knew why they were committing their time and resources to the organization.”
And that was just the beginning!
Fundraising, Fun and Fellowship
“Year after year the dedicated members of our Junior Board plan and execute three major events, including Trivia Night, Sip and Savor and Bar Bounce,” said Maria Rehkemper, Development and Marketing Manager. “They also host a summer BBQ for all of our foster families and a very special event in the winter called Skating with Santa for our foster youth.”
This year the Junior Board is planning a new event, Angels’ Arms first Pickleball Tournament on August 28. “They are always thinking of new ways to raise awareness, generate funds and connect with the community. The 20+ members of Junior Board meet monthly to discuss upcoming events, and brainstorm ways to promote Angels’ Arms mission in the community.
“And, they make a real difference. Since its inception the Junior Board has raised over one million dollars for Angels’ Arms foster families!”
Siblings Helping Siblings
Michaela Karandzieff joined the Junior Board about five years ago. Straight out of college, she learned about Angels’ Arms from a family friend. “I love being part of the JB, and I love what Angels’ Arms does in the foster community.”
Michaela is passionate about the mission of engaging the community and keeping sibling groups together, which may explain why her sister Emily also joined the JB. “When I graduated college and moved back to St. Louis, I wanted to get involved with a non-profit. I’m a teacher and I love kids, so Angels’ Arms is a perfect fit. Michaela really loved being on the Junior Board, I had been to several great events, so I asked to join.”
Michaela explained, “I actually didn’t even know Emily was joining. She told me she had talked to someone on the JB and signed up. And I’m really happy she did. She helped me co-chair Sip and Savor this spring, and it’s great to run things by each other.”
It’s for the Kids
What drew these sisters and the other JB members to Angels’ Arms? “Knowing that everything we do goes to support the kids and families is what I love the most, “ said Michaela. “We have a saying that we use a lot on the JB, ‘It’s for the kids.’ And it really is. Even though we enjoy our events, it is all about helping the kids.”
Emily explained that they also love working closely with the families. “Being on the JB we learn, not only about the kids, but the parents. It’s so great to know what’s going on. We learn about what is being done for the parents and how everyone comes together. From the time I joined, everyone was welcoming. It felt great to feel like I was part of it, even though I was brand new.”
“Getting to see the kids and parents in different situations is one of the most fun parts,” said Michaela. Emily echoed those sentiments, “I love interacting with the kids and seeing them interact with each other.”
New Members are Welcome
“We meet once a month and we always welcome getting new people involved,” said Michaela. “We need people who are interested in supporting Angels’ Arms and giving back, who will be active participants.”
Maria noted, “It’s a wonderful way to network, meet other young professionals in St. Louis, and of course, further Angels’ Arms mission by making a difference in the lives of foster youth right here in our community.”
For Emily, “It’s another way to socialize and interact with other young people, and, you are doing it all for a good cause. Now that we are getting out of everything being virtual, it’s another way to get together with others who care about what you care about.”
What Makes the Angels’ Arms JB Special?
Dedication, commitment, love for the foster families, compassion – that’s what this group is made of.
“At one point, we were asked to present to a class at UMSL,” stated Bess. “Sunny Simms (then Junior Board President) and myself shared how we became the most successful JB in the state. This group of young professionals has been and continues to be dynamic in many ways. They devote much of their time to ensure events run smoothly. Their passion for supporting our families remains ever-present; and they use their connections and spread the word about our mission.”
People are astounded by all they do. “We all work well together and everybody is involved,” said Michaela. “People are involved and engaged, and we give our time when we can. All of our Board members have lives, and other things going on. But we have a Junior Board that participates, they show up, and they want to help.”
One thing Emily learned after joining the JB is how much they can help support the families. “I knew we worked with kids in the foster care system. I didn’t realize how much we support them. It’s an amazing community – we have the warehouse, the houses, maintenance. The JB helps out so the parents can focus on being the best parents they can be to these kids.”
As Michaela said, “This is a board that shows up, works well together, is willing to participate, is passionate about Angels’ Arms, supporting foster families, and getting involved.”
And that’s exactly why they are known, not just at Angels’ Arms but throughout the region, as the best Junior Board in the state. ❤️
It’s time to celebrate May with Sip & Savor and Angels’ Arms. Looking back at 10 years of this event, participants will tell you, it’s been a delightful decade, and it’s history goes back even farther!
The food and beverage tasting extravaganza returns on Friday, May 13, 6-9 pm, at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, 1335 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Presented by Angels’ Arms Junior Board, with the generous sponsorship of Dierbergs Markets, Sip & Savor has grown into one of the tastiest parties of the year.
Since joining Angels’ Arms five years ago, Michaela Karandzieff, has been involved with Sip & Savor. This year she is chair of the event. “I got involved with Angels’ Arms because I love what they do in the foster care community. I didn’t know a single person on the Junior Board when I got involved, but I knew I wanted to be part of helping foster parents and kids. At my first meeting, they passed around a signup sheet, asking what committee I would like to serve on. I chose Sip & Savor, and I’ve been at it ever since.”
While virtual events have been held the past two years, Michaela is excited to get back to an in-person event this year.
Kudos to Dierbergs Markets
A long-standing partnership with Dierbergs Markets helps to make this event better each year. “Sip and Savor wouldn’t be the success it is without our partnership with Dierbergs,” explained Maria Rehkemper, Angels’ Arms Development and Marketing Manager. “Dierbergs secures over 200 different wines, beers and spirits to be sampled at the event.
“The great thing is, every beverage you taste at Sip & Savor you can purchase at your local Dierbergs right away. What a perfect way to try before you buy. And you will be one of the first people to sample new products! Thank you, Dierbergs! We are so grateful for Dierbergs partnership year after year.”
We’ve come a long way, baby!
Under the direction of the Junior Board, this spring event has grown from rather humble beginnings. Bess Wilfong, Founder and Executive Director, reflects, “It all started withCorks for a Cause, which was held outdoors across from the Galleria and in Maryland Plaza for several years. It then morphed to the Amazing Taste at Lukas Liquors in Ellisville, also held in the parking lot. As the event gained momentum, we approached Dierbergs as a partner. They hosted the first Sip & Savor event in their garage at their then new Des Peres store. We finally outgrew that space and moved to the Frontenac Hilton, continuing to partner with Dierbergs.”
Three Hours of fun, all for a great cause!
Even over the last 10 years, Sip & Savor has been through many transitions. As Maria noted, “We started outdoors in Dierbergs’ parking garage and transitioned inside to the Hilton Frontenac. It was even a huge success last year as a virtual event! This year is extra special since it’s our 10th Annual Sip & Savor.
“It’s just one of those events that everyone looks forward to. It features something for everyone. People turn it into a fun night out with friends, a great event to take clients to, and even a fun date night idea. It’s one of our most highly anticipated events year after year for that reason.
“Where else can you sample over 200 beverages and 15-plus food options from local restaurants, all while listening to live music, participating in an exciting raffle, taking a moment in the photo booth and so much more! This event has it all, basically it’s three full hours of fun and all for a great cause!”
Get your taste buds ready for a feast, including food vendors:
Canyon Café, Crown Candy, Elaine’s Subs, Federhofer Bakery, Grace Meat & Three , Hilton Frontenac – Provinces, Kirkwood Pop Co, Le Macaron, Mellow Mushroom, Pasta House, River City Casino and Hotel, andRonocco Coffee.
“We are counting down the days to May 13,” said Michaela. “Not to give anything away, but everyone coming gets a fun glass, and this year it’s either a hurricane or a stemless wine glass! Our guests will sample incredible food alongside a huge array of wines, spirits and beers! Music, unique raffle items and lots of fun await you!”
Join our family and help love reach more children!
COMING THIS MAY check out Angels’ Arms new monthly giving program and choose which impact you would like to make on a foster child’s life right here in our community! 💙
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month and we are excited to provide YOU with a new way to spread joy to our foster families.
Join our family and become a monthly donor!
✨ LINK TO JOIN OUR FAMILY COMING SOON!!! ✨
“Your donation is greatly appreciated and goes a long way in helping to support the kiddos in our homes. Your donations no matter the amount directly impacts a child’s life in a positive way.”– Lawreene, Angels’ Arms foster parent
Here at Angels’ Arms we rely on our community of supporters to not only aid in generating funds for our foster families but helping at our 13 foster homes and so much more!
If you’ve ever considered donating your time here at Angels’ Arms — we have a perfect way for you to do just that!
Volunteer Opportunities –
VOLUNTEER AT A FOSTER HOME: – Yard work – Landscaping – Painting – Decorating – Cleaning – Maintenance projects – Staining decks – …and more!
HOST A COLLECTION: – Laundry detergent – Personal care items (full size bottles please) – Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels ,etc.) – Snacks and other non-perishable foods
WORK IN MARION’s ANGEL DEPOT: – Stocking shelves – Organizing – Cleaning up – Helping foster families shop – …and more!
BIRTHDAY PAL PROGRAM: Help celebrate a foster child’s special day by being their “Birthday Pal”! Learn more, HERE!
MEAL DROP-OFF PROGRAM: Give a foster parent(s) a night off from cooking and provide a meal for a foster family! Learn more, HERE!
AMAZON WISH LIST: Purchase most needed items for our foster families on our Amazon Wish List. Check out the list, HERE!
MENTOR/TUTOR A FOSTER CHILD: We have different options for this unique opportunity. To learn more, please contact Angels’ Arms Outreach Coordinator, Ashley Cook at email@example.com.
JOIN OUR FAMILY: Become a Monthly Donor by joining Our Family Monthly Giving Program! A wonderful opportunity to be a consistent part of our foster families lives and make a direct impact on each foster child in our homes! To join Our Family, click HERE!
Moving from a two-car garage to a warehouse filled with everyday essentials has allowed Angels’ Arms to assist foster families with on-going needs.
Marion’s Angel Depot opened in December 2020. This 4,000 square foot warehouse serves as a donation and distribution center for almost everything Angels’ Arms families need to keep their households running smoothly.
Part of Angels’ Arms mission is to engage the community in supporting foster families. As Founder and Executive Director Bess Wilfong noted, “From the time we founded Angels’ Arms, people in the community have been stepping up with unbelievable support. A lot of that support comes in through donated items. With the help of the community, we can ensure that the foster parents have what they need to care for the children who enter their homes.”
“Our distribution center was originally the garage at our first home, which is now the Angels’ Arms office,” explained Maria Rehkember, Development and Marketing Manager. “It was the hub for families to get essential supplies. But it also held all our maintenance tools, fall event decor, office supplies, basket making supplies, and more. We were creative, using every square inch from top to bottom, but the parents couldn’t even see everything that we had for them. The warehouse is a wonderful improvement.”
Ashley Cook is the Outreach Coordinator who runs and oversees Marion’s Angel Depot. She sees first hand the benefits the families derive from having a warehouse of supplies. “This is the primary distribution area for our families. They usually come in twice a month for basic necessities such as toiletries, cereal, non-perishable items, TP, laundry detergent, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap. These are a constant need for our foster parents. Although we don’t provide for all their needs, these donations greatly assist the parents.”
Where does it all come from? Ashley explained, “Schools and companies host drives, individuals collect items, many people order from our Amazon wish list. The parents are like kids in a candy store. It’s amazing to them that people give them so much help. They actually have options, and it’s free. They never know what they will find just shopping the aisles in the Depot. And it has been a huge help throughout the pandemic. Our community is just so generous.”
In 2021, schools, churches, business and other organizations hosted 43 drives and collections. Angels’ Arms received: 1,902 boxes of cereal, 1,493 canned goods, 3,000+ paper goods items, 8,400 diapers, and more. Our parents utilized the warehouse over 100 times. These donations fill a critical need for our families.
How did the warehouse come about?
The staff and the families saw the need for a warehouse years ago, but it took a generous donation from Marion Bradford to make it a reality. Marion became involved with Angles’ Arms when she went to a dinner auction in 2002. She has been volunteering since that time.
Marion has always been generous with her time and donations. “I decided I wanted to give to Angels’ Arms, but not only after I died. Why should I wait until I was gone? I wanted to put my dreams into action so I could actually see the outcomes, and the joy it could bring.”
Her generous donation became the foundation for making the warehouse a reality. Seeing the warehouse fully stocked, Marion realized “how vital it is to have a place for our foster families to get all the supplies they need in one central location. It’s a friendly and warm atmosphere, and our parents can easily see and feel the love and care the community put into those donations.”
As far as the warehouse being named Marion’s Angel Depot, “I don’t think my smile could be any bigger or my heart feel any fuller. It is such an honor.”
Filling Needs at the Holidays and Throughout the Year
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Depot saw a lot of traffic. Ashley noted, “People are so incredibly generous, but especially so during the holidays.” Shelves and tables were filled with boxes and wrapped packages as part of the Adopt-a-Family program. “It was a blessing to have a place to store and organize all the gifts and supplies coming in.”
The foster parents were equally thrilled. “This is a big help and benefit to my family,” said Brittany Jewett, a single mom with five foster children. It is wonderful to go in a couple times a month and pick up the things we really need.” For Brittany and family, that includes Pull Ups and wipes for the young ones, and snacks for school for the older children.
“It’s also more accessible,” added Brittany, who teaches full-time. “Ashley has an order form, so I can give her the order in advance. She pulls out what I need and has it ready when I stop by after work. It’s wonderful to have the boxes ready to go. I can swoop them up into my car and I don’t even have to get the kids out.
“Ashley always asks the parents if there’s anything we don’t have that we need, and she will try to get that for the next round of donations. It’s amazing that we can stop by and pick up extra items, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, face masks – even paper plates and TP. It’s great to have this on hand when I get new foster kids. Lots of times they come to my home with almost nothing.”
Kim Singletonis part of the extended Angels’ Arms family. She doesn’t live in one of our homes, but benefits from the support the Angels’ Arms community provides.
Kim describes her household as “pretty full! I have two children of my own and usually have three or four foster children, also. The Depot helps us by providing almost anything we need – extra food, bedding, necessities, toiletries, everything. I broke down and cried at Christmas, there was a shelf of gifts, just for us, already wrapped for the kids. Angels’ Arms is a great organization. When I say it is a blessing that they are there, it is truly, truly a blessing.”
Susan Benwell, Angels’ Arms 2019 Volunteer of the Year, assisted families when supplies were stored in the garage. “It was such a small space, trying to house hardware, supplies for the families, event supplies, and a big conference table that was used as an intake table and a work table. The Depot lets us separate and sort things better. It has made a huge impact on our families.”
The holidays were a busy time. Susan stated, “Christmas was a wonderful blur. It is so beautiful to see so many people stepping forward, even kids, to help our foster kids. The biggest thing I have seen volunteering here is how so many people come together and contribute to the families. Sometimes it’s a little bit, sometimes a lot. A whole bunch of people, coming together to make a difference for our families.”
In all, 12 families living in Angels’ Arms homes as well as 10 extended foster families benefit from the tremendous generosity of the community. These 22 dedicated foster families are extremely grateful for the assistance they receive.
As Marion stated, “ It is a great feeling to work with so many wonderful people, from the donors to the staff to the parents. Everyone is making a difference in the lives of each child Angels’ Arms touches.”
Are you interested in helping stock the shelves at Marion’s Angel Depot?
Individuals and groups are more than welcome to host a collection for Angels’ Arms. Although the Depot is well stocked around the holidays, the supplies get lower in the spring and summer.
Contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-842-8400, to host a collection or if you need more information.
The resources and support provided by the community helps raise the standard of care for foster children. Every donation touches the life – and the heart – of a child.