Wow! What a weekend! I was brimming with pride in agency accomplishments that were highlighted Friday and Saturday nights.
Friday, Sept. 26, was our annual Harvest of Hope recognition event. The event is meant to provide an opportunity for our wonderful foster parents to get away for a bit, have a nice meal, and to hear how much we appreciate all that they do for children in need of out-of-home care.
The event, held at the Italian Conference Center, drew 127 foster and adoptive parents, and it featured several awards. The Rookie of the Year honors a foster family who has done an exceptional job in their first year. The Co-Parent Award is for a family that does an exceptional job of working with the biological parents for the benefit of the foster children in their care. The All in the Family Award recognizes a foster parent or parents who take in large sibling groups, those with challenging needs or who have changed their licensure to accommodate a sibling group. The Outstanding Service Award honors overall commitment to children in foster care, and the Grow Hope Award is for growing hope through actions, words and commitment.
We had so many nominees from our staff who work with these foster parents that several categories had honorable mentions as well as award winners. And it is always very difficult to pick winners because, in fact, ALL our foster parents are winners. They all provide love, care, patience – and a sense of humor always helps – and we could not do it without them. Here are the results:
- Rookie of the Year: Jennifer and Dante Houston. Honorable mention: Deyse and Rodney Evans
- Co-Parent: Anita Whigham
- All in the Family: Daniel and Sherri Sladek. Honorable mention: Jermaine Allen and Stephanie Miles Allen
- Outstanding Service: Carman and Harry Nelson. Honorable mention: Ann and Lee VanDixhorn
- Grow Hope: William and Janise Garrett. Honorable mention: Marshall and Marjorie Barlow
If you might be interested in joining our cadre of extraordinary foster parents, click here to be directed to a website dedicated to fostering through SaintA.
The next evening, on Saturday, Sept. 27, we held our Rally for Kids at the Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum. This fundraising event drew 210 guests for an evening that included games, a silent auction, music, a comedy routine and a great meal. A highlight of the event was hearing from two young adults in our Independent Living Services (ILS), which helps youth who have aged out of foster care successfully transition to adulthood. These are young people who must leave the foster care system when they are 18; they must find a self-supporting job, housing, furniture, and in other words, fend for themselves – usually without any support system. Without help, their outcomes are grim. Many of them end up homeless, or in jail.
The two young women, Elizabeth Brown and Shanunique Rogers, spoke only for a short time, but their stories were sincere and moving. As with other youth in this program, both had been in foster care a long time – one since she was only nine months old. Both told about how lost they would have been without the assistance of SaintA, how their caseworkers gave them advice, caring and a belief that they can achieve a better future. It is always valuable to hear first-hand from those we serve about how we help them change their lives.
The event raised funds for ILS, a program that is largely unfunded from any sources other than donations. We sincerely thank all those who attended, bought raffle tickets, silent auction gifts, and who generously donated to our “bids for kids” after the two young women spoke. Anyone who did not attend but would still like to donate to this – or any other of our programs – can do so by clicking here.
We will continue to keep you updated on our work in blogs and stories on this website. I invite you to get to know us better and to become a member of our extended SaintA family. Next year, we will be celebrating our 165th anniversary. So stay tuned for more information, and we hope you will join us at what we promise will be another festive event.
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