… 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.
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.