In 2019, the nonprofit Fostering Hope had been well on its way to 50 teams providing support to foster families and working with foster kids aging out of the system.

Then COVID happened, and lockdowns and shutdowns forced some of the work to a halt and dipped the number of teams into the 20s.

During the first fall fundraiser in almost two years, supporters recently came together for a luncheon and raised $126,000 to again increase the number of families served by more than two dozen and again closer to that 50 goal.

Dramatically explaining the need were speakers Rochelle, who said she was there “to acknowledge my painful past” so she can help others; foster mom of 25 Jennice, who took in several youngsters whose play times had been “pretend orphanage”; and former foster youth Anastasia, who had learned there are people who care and has “a village to help me grow and raise my son in a way that I wasn’t.”

Co-founder Angela Carron said Fostering Hope started 15 years ago when her father, Nick Colarelli, and the family had wondered “if everyday people could be recruited and trained not to be foster parents but to help out as close family or friends to them. There was no model or precedent.”

The Colarellis, she said, had interviewed foster families and former foster youth and discovered there was a gap — “a gap between what families and kids said they needed and what a child welfare system was designed to do.”

Working 17 years as a pediatrician, Angela “knew I couldn’t prescribe a pill that would be as healing as a grandma’s hug. It was a gap that contributed to foster parent burnout and instability for children. We knew we had to try something.”

They found several churches that allowed them to explain their idea and two teams of volunteers agreed. Two of those volunteers, Liz and Randy Price, were at the luncheon and are still involved.

Volunteers help lighten and share the load for the families, often doing simple things like helping with homework, shopping or providing rides to school activities and sports. “Perhaps more miraculously, these strangers soon became friends.”

Teens leaving the foster system have people like new “aunts and uncles” to help them navigate their new lives.

Angela’s dad, Nick, now 91, retired from Fostering Hope and is now a consultant and member of the board. The first program director was hired, Jenni Swogger, whose family had foster children and she has 7 siblings.

(FosteringHopeFoundation.org)

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