What started as an idea of getting the community involved in foster children’s lives is now a 20-year-old organization that has served close to 600 children. No single person can be given the credit of starting this thing. From the very first day as we gathered around my dinner table with close friends, the support and determination and hard work began. Each day that we shared the idea of providing a loving family to foster children with a focus of keeping siblings together, more and more people came forward and showed their love.
First was the 501c3 application process. (No one told me I could have an attorney handle this.)
Next was gathering a group of passionate and committed individuals to form a board.
We needed to generate funds so we sold cookbooks resulting in a whopping $4,000 profit.
Then Tom Hartanagel (founding Board Member) decided to host a fashion show/auction. We had 100 guests and were beyond elated.
Then came the first house. John Dennis, a teacher I worked with at Sperreng Middle, decided to help us obtain the house across the street. It was big. It had a huge yard. It was a great location. It was $400,000. John Dennis believed.
From that point on every weekend over the course of 9 months was dedicated to transforming this dark and old house with shag carpet throughout (they even left us a rake!). Volunteers poured in from all over the place and made this house a warm home. People adopted rooms, made meals for the volunteers, donated supplies, held garage sales, painted, remodeled, replaced, tore down, and gave and gave until 12128 Tesson Ferry was ready to be called a home and to welcome children of all ages.
Next came the search for foster parents. Interview after interview finally resulted in Becky and Jesse Hughes being chosen as the inaugural house parents. Their application read like this: “How long do you see yourselves doing this?” “Until we’re physically unable or until God calls us home.”
Next enter the Greek ladies. From the time that we had one home all the way to 13 of them, these selfless and beautiful souls hosted activities every single month for all the families. Their outings started with a family of 12 and ended with over 100 participants each month.
The foster system is broken. Most people in the field either quit from burnout, sadness and frustration, and they’re told to keep quiet about what happens.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We should all have the opportunity to be a part of these children’s lives.
And that’s what happens every day at Angels’ Arms. People give in countless ways. Lemonade stands. Cereal drives. Meal drop-offs. Birthday celebrations. Hundreds of fundraisers. Tons of work days. Activities and opportunities. We’ve had everything from a carnival in the backyard to kickball and wiffle ball tournaments to Easter egg hunts and more. We’ve witnessed more acts of love and kindness than we ever would have imagined.
But at the end of every single day we know this: all children need love. And all children who’ve lived and are currently living in one of our 13 homes get just that. There is so much love in every action that people take. We get to witness this every day. And more importantly, each child experiences this love.
Sometimes we deal with heartache. Sometimes we feel defeated. Sometimes we get tired. But then we are energized by the smile on a child’s face or the letter that a youth writes us or the story that a foster parent shares conveying something that may seem small to most but is huge for them.
I’ve said this since the year 2000 and I say it almost daily: we’re all in this together. Giving and showing love is something everyone can do. That is what changes lives. Truly the most powerful therapy is human love. We are filled with wonder and excitement to see what another decade brings. Yes, the foster system is broken. Yes, we are fixing it…one child at a time.