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lawreene kids in the pool
Foster Family

When Foster Parents Say Goodbye

In March, we bid farewell to Angels’ Arms foster parents Lawreene (left) and Will Hall (middle). While some tears were shed on all sides, it will be a great new start for the Halls as they retire to Florida! And, their foster children are able to stay in their Angels’ Arms home, already bonding with their new foster parents.

The Halls have been fostering for 10 years, and joined Angels’ Arms as parents in June of 2020, during the height of covid. What they experienced joining the Angels’ Arms family is something they will never forget.

Support, support and more support!

What was different when they began fostering in an Angels’ Arms home? Lawreene made it very clear, “From day one, it was the level of support and the extended family. You could see the difference overnight. Being part of the Angels’ Arms family, with all the different parents and different levels of experience, you always had someone to call on who would understand. No matter what situation you were facing, the other foster parents would listen, and they gave great advice.”

The support made a huge difference in the lives of Lawreene and Will’s foster children. “A lot of the public believe that you become a foster parent for the money.” Lawreene explained, “They don’t realize that you are given maybe $300 a year to clothe a child. It is wonderful with Angels’ Arms to get extra gift cards to get the boys some clothes. Some of them are growing so fast that I have to shop almost monthly.”

While Lawreene and her boys are big thrift store shoppers, “A gift card means I can go out and get them a brand-new pair of pants. It does something for their confidence, They stand taller, smile more, because they get to go to school with a new outfit. And that little purchase is a big confidence booster.

Little things like this make a huge difference in these kids’ lives. And Angels’ Arms takes care of so many little details that they see. It’s all those little things that help the foster parents make a real home and provide a real childhood for the kids.”

In addition to helping with food and clothing, the Hall family really enjoyed the opportunity to gather with other Angels’ Arms families. Their boys love getting together with the foster kids from Angels’ Arms 15 homes. “The boys felt the difference from before and after living in an Angels’ Arms home. The staff and community supporters think of everything. They put together fantastic family events and outings. It’s been a joy to be a part of Angels’ Arms. This is the model that should be duplicated across the country through other foster care agencies.”

And then there are the meals. Supporters often provide meals that seem to come at just the right time. “I’ve had them delivered on days when I was sick, and it was such a blessing. Or I might get involved with appointments for the kids, and when I finally get home, I still have to figure out dinner. That’s when the meals are so great.”

What happens in Florida?

The Halls plan to retire and do some traveling. And, although they are moving into a retirement community, Lawreene plans to figure out how to continue working with kids. “My passion is still to help kids. I want to connect with some school or agency down there and help out. Being an Angels’ Arms foster parent has been such a great experience. The three short years we were here, made a huge difference. I sing Angels’ Arms’ praises whenever I can and wherever I can. I’ll forever be attached, even from Florida.”

While she’s happy for the new beginning, Lawreene admits she is very sad to leave her foster kids. Their new foster parents (Tamatha and Guido Araya) moved into the home and provided a smooth transition, meeting the boys and spending time with them at several family outings. Lawreene explained, “It’s important to keep the boys in the same school, and to have the stability of their home and neighborhood. They are excited about the Arayas coming.”

Under the Angels’ Arms Umbrella

“Coming to Angels’ Arms has shown me that there are so many kind and generous people in St. Louis. It is amazing. The news is so negative, and you hear all the bad and see all the division. Under Angels’ Arms, it’s diverse, but it’s still a big family feel. When you experience this kind of love from complete strangers, it restores your faith in humanity. There is still good out there in the world, and that’s what I really want these boys to see. They appreciate what people do, and it helps them grow up to have a generous spirit and to be kind and big hearted. I see that in them.

“Being under the Angels’ Arms umbrella is a safe place to be. You feel the support. I just wish we could pattern this 50 more times – we’d have an Angels’ Arms in each state. The world would be different because the children would be different. These children will grow up to be citizens who will make a difference. It takes us all – everybody has a role to play. You may not be taking a child in your home, but everybody can help in some small way.”

Making a difference

“The donors should know, those meals, those gift cards – you’re making a huge difference in a child’s life, in a foster parent’s life. It might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s huge. Trying to navigate the whole foster care system is sometimes overwhelming in itself. Donors may not know that what they have done may have come at just the right time. That extra support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference.”

Lawreene and Will have touched the lives and hearts of so many children in their 10 years of fostering. We wish them well on their new journey, and thank them for the huge difference they made in the many lives they touched.

Foster Family

Sharing the LOVE this Valentine’s Day!

Sweet Stories for the Month of Love!

Some of the first things that come to people’s minds when they think of the month of February are Valentine’s Day, love, Groundhog Day, Black History Month, or Mardi Gras. Well…if your first thought for February is Valentine’s Day, we have so many sweet stories to share!

I am sure you can think back to the days when you spent weeks thinking about what valentines you were going to pick for your class, taking time to think about which valentine each classmate would receive, and what your Valentine’s Day box was going to look like. You may have even been the person who forgot to get your valentine’s box until the night before, causing a panicked hurry to the store for your parents!

Some of the members of the Singleton family have never had a Valentine’s Day party. Their foster mom decided to throw them a party at home and made a very special Valentine’s gift for them to open.  The kids enjoyed putting up the decorations throughout the house and were so happy to be having a Valentine’s party.  

The McDaniel family recently started a new tradition this year in their home. They have a bulletin board that displays their artwork. During the month of February, the foster mother in this home celebrated each of her foster children leading up to Valentine’s Day. We can only imagine how excited the kids in this home must have been when they walked past the bulletin board and saw themselves spotlighted!

The oldest child in the Spencer family made more steps towards being independent with a little help from her foster mom. This young lady rode her bike to the local community college to register for college classes and has also been riding her bike to work. What an amazing young lady to ride her bike in the winter to do these things to help her in the future! Punxsutawney Phil told us we had six more weeks of winter, but we hope that the spring weather is here to stay so this young lady can enjoy more bike rides.

Have you ever wanted to lounge around the house and just watch movies all day? One of our foster parents was asked by the nine-year-old in the Miller family if they could lounge on the chaise and watch a movie. While they were watching the movie, the foster child had their head on their foster mom’s chest, and she said she could hear and feel her heartbeat. A couple minutes later the child said their hearts were beating at the same time and that makes them one. This special moment touched their mother’s heart as it captured just how she, as their foster mother, feels and how blessed they are to have each other.

The Tripp family came home from a fun afternoon at the park to find out their kitty, Hunter, had unexpectedly passed away. The four-year-old in the home was with her foster mother when she received the news about Hunter, and she sat on the porch comforting her. She comforted her foster mother by rubbing her back and saying, “Don’t cry, Hunter knows you loved him.” Hunter will always be a part of this foster family and the foster mother was thankful her daughter was there to comfort her during this time.

After having a fun-filled summer, one of our foster moms printed all the photos of her family so they could create memory books. What a great idea! As the Bocklage foster family was going through the photos, the ten-year-old burst into tears as soon as the photos were given to them. Their foster mom asked why they were crying, and their response was, “I can’t believe I finally have real pictures of me and my brother.”  

After reading all the incredible stories of some of the sweet children in our homes shared by our amazing foster moms, we want you to take a moment to imagine an almost 6-foot-tall young man, soon to be a young adult, wanting a hug goodnight every night. This young man has been through so much and every night before he goes to bed, he requests a hug and tells his foster mom, “I love you dearly Grandma and thank you for being there for me.” He has ambitious dreams to become a successful young man and eventually wants to be able to bring his kids to visit his foster mom on the holidays.

Foster Family

A family trip to Trout Lodge …

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. 

See you again soon, Trout Lodge! 👋


All About Angels’ Arms Junior Board

Making it happen for “our” kids! ❤️

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!

Junior Board members hosted a picnic where they collected donations for our foster families in 2015.

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.”

Angels’ Arms Junior Board members Jessica Duneman, Claire Juodis, and Megan Gordon (past member) at Junior Board’s annual event Sip & Savor in 2019.
Junior Board member, Greg Lewis, stuffing glasses at Sip & Savor 2022.
Junior Board member selling raffle tickets at Angels’ Arms Sip & Savor event in 2022.

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.”

Our Junior Board members truly become a unit helping local foster children. Here, Angels’ Arms Junior Board members Scott Thomas, Lauren Potje, Lindsey Van Duyne and Jordan Shelton gather at a Junior Board member’s home to create care packages for our foster youth in 2020.

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.”

Junior Board members Heather Bockhoff, Tracy Lyons, Jordan Shelton, Lindsey Van Duyne, and Scott Thomas help Angels’ Arms youth pick our brand new shoes at a special event.

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. ❤️


Sip & Savor is Back…Cheers to 10 Years!

Sip & Savor is Back…Cheers to 10 Years!

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!

Guests smiling at Annual Sip & Savor event in 2019.

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.”

Development and Marketing Manager, Maria Rehkemper, speaking with longtime supporters at Sip & Savor 2019.

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, and Ronocco 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!”

Don’t miss out! You can register at:

Choose your impact!
Give Back

Our Family Monthly Giving Program

NEW Monthly Giving Program coming in May!

Choose your impact and bring love into a foster child's life each month!

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!


“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

💙 YOU CAN SIGN UP EARLY BY CLICKING HERE and choosing the recurring donation option. 

volunteer pic

Volunteer Opportunities…Something for everyone!

We want your help!

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 –

– Yard work
– Landscaping
– Painting
– Decorating
– Cleaning
– Maintenance projects
– Staining decks
– …and more!

– Laundry detergent
– Personal care items (full size bottles please)
– Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels ,etc.)
– Snacks and other non-perishable foods

– Stocking shelves
– Organizing
– Cleaning up
– Helping foster families shop
– …and more!

Help celebrate a foster child’s special day by being their “Birthday Pal”! Learn more, HERE!

Give a foster parent(s) a night off from cooking and provide a meal for a foster family! Learn more, HERE!

Purchase most needed items for our foster families on our Amazon Wish List. Check out the list, HERE!

We have different options for this unique opportunity. To learn more, please contact Angels’ Arms Outreach Coordinator, Ashley Cook at

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!

Simone Biles

Celebrating Black History Month

Check out our feature on Black foster care alumni on Angels’ Arms Facebook page!

Foster Family

Marion’s Angel Depot

4,000 Square Feet of “Oh, we really need that!”

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.

Outreach Coordinator Ashley Cook, Director of Operations Jasmina Schue and Founder/Executive Director Bess Wilfong standing in a stocked Marion’s Angel Depot.

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.”

Fall auction volunteers, Sherri Slyman and Christine Christoffel, worked as well as they could in the cramped space of Angels’ Arms garage creating each basket for Angels’ Arms annual auction in November.

“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.”

Volunteer, Susan Benwell, helped to organize the garage as much as possible for the foster parents but as Angels’ Arms outreach grew, the space in the garage just was not enough.

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.”

Marion’s Angel Depot received its first donation on October 5, 2020 thanks to DECA Reality Group. This was the start of something amazing!

Consider this:

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.

The community comes together to support Angels’ Arms families through collections much like this one shown here. Items are processed when they arrived, inventoried and then placed on the shelves for foster parents to easily grab whatever their families need.

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.”

Founder and Executive Director Bess Wilfong, holding the key to Marion’s Angel Depot!

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.”

Marion Bradford standing in front of Marion’s Angel Depot on the day of the naming ceremony in her honor.
Marion walking through Marion’s Angel Depot with Outreach Coordinator, Ashley Cook, and learning all about the processes that take place at the warehouse to maintain organization and efficiency when items are donated.

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.”

Development/Marketing Manager Maria Rehkemper, Outreach Coordinator Ashley Cook, Founder/Executive Director Bess Wilfong and Director of Operations Jasmina Schue handing out donations at Marion’s Angel Depot to foster families for the holidays thanks to generous donors in the community!

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.”

A look back at how cramped the space was in the garage when planning for events!

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.

Some of the foster families in Angels’ Arms Extended Families Program receiving donations during the holidays at Marion’s Angel Depot.

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 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.


A Moment with Board Member and Event Chair, Tom Hartnagel

A Moment with Tom Hartnagel

A sit down chat with Angels’ Arms Board Member and Fall Event Chair, Tom Hartnagel 

A yearly auction has been an important part of Angels’ Arms history since the organization was founded 21 years ago. The momentum that turned that event from a simple auction into a magnificent gala came from one of Angels’ Arms Founding Fathers, Tom Hartnagel, who has chaired the auction for each of those 21 years. Let’s take a look back and discover how the auction grew and evolved into the “must attend” event of the season!

Learning about foster care

Tom’s wife Dana taught school with Bess Wilfong (founder and Executive Director of Angels’ Arms). After having dinner with Bess and several other couples “we learned more about foster care, and Bess’ vision to create an organization to assist foster parents and keep sibling groups together. That’s when we began to formulate a plan to make this vision a reality. I’m proud that Dana and I were founding board members. Dedication to the cause, for me and so many people, started as a commitment to help Bess achieve her vision. Now it’s blossomed into a passion for me, and so many other Board members, volunteers and community supporters.”

When he agreed to chair the first auction, Tom may not have known that this was a “permanent” assignment. This is the 21st Stepping Out for the Angels’ event, and Tom is proud to have served as chairman for all of these years.

“I have always enjoyed planning parties and social events—whether it was family gatherings, or as far back as social chairman for my fraternity in the early ’90s. Couple that with doing something that can generate dollars for a good cause, and it’s a win-win. It’s been a way to build strong friendships with many volunteers and donors.”

It started with a bike

Tom was actually a newcomer to the auction scene. “I had never planned an auction before, in fact, the first event was actually a fashion show, with the help of my wife, and then fellow board member, Colleen Stein. We hosted this at Greenbriar Country Club, with 85 guests in attendance. It was a nice dinner, followed by a fashion show. Someone contributed a bicycle, and at the close of the evening, I stood up to auction it off.” He raised $600 for that mountain bike—and the rest is history.

“The next year we held a fashion show, but we had a room where we hosted cocktails with about 25 baskets. The event has blossomed quite a bit since then, as we now have almost 200 items in our silent auction, and a substantial selection of live auction items.”

The auction goal: creating awareness

“The goal of the first auction was simply to create mindshare—share our vision and tell a story. We worked with local TV personality Katie Jamboretz, who acted as emcee. Later, Katie created a compelling video that was used to show potential donors what Angels’ Arms was all about.”

Unique themes, unique venues

Each year brings a new theme or concept—and with that comes new creative ideas to execute. Whether it was a massive blow-up planet earth at America’s Center, eye-catching jelly fish at Kemp Auto Museum, or French, Asian, or Italian flare and cuisine—each gala presented something fun and new. “We have hosted the event at five different venues, each with special experiences and fun times. The funniest, most poignant moments typically happen on the stage—whether it’s an exchange with Katie Jamboretz, Al Hrabosky, Dan McLaughlin, Kelly Jackson, or Heidi Glaus. There is bound to be a funny exchange with a foster child selling his or her artwork, or the auctioneer (Tom)—losing track of the live auction current bid.”

While many aspects of the gala remain the same, the importance and growth of sponsors have really propelled the gala forward. “Our loyal sponsors who have supported us for years, as well as new sponsors who are just learning about Angels’ Arms – these are the secret sauce to any event. You can have the most delicious dinner, an abundance of cocktails, and the perfect venue, but it’s the sponsorships and fund-a-need donations that truly fuel the engine and provide the support needed to keep our homes and families thriving.”

Tom’s goal now is to maintain a fun-filled, innovative event, that ultimately generates tremendous revenue for the Angels’ Arms mission. “What might have been a successful traditional dinner auction for two decades, might not be the perfect equation for the future. We don’t want things to be stale, so we evaluate after the event takes place.” Because of Covid, “the virtual event of 2020 actually created a unique way to view fundraising. Time will tell what the future holds for our donors and supporters.”

A Special Recipe – love for the mission

“We have an amazing group of supporters who truly understand the mission of our organization. Many attendees come back year after year, evangelizing the unique story of Angels’ Arms. That keeps this event alive and thriving. We have a special recipe for delivering a fun-filled event, along with a room full of individuals who care greatly for their community. In some way, everyone has a connection to the board and other volunteers – and most importantly, they have caring hearts to support the foster parents and the children in their care.”

And most importantly for Stepping Out for the Angels, we have Tom Hartnagel – master auctioneer and chair of our Gala, whose heart if all about the kids!