Agency helps foster parents

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, September 20, 2018

DJ&FS raised money to buy school shoes for children

This spring, everyone at the Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services decided to help out all 61 kids in foster care by buying them a couple outfits and a swimsuit so they could enjoy the summer months in style.

They hoped to do something similar when it came time for the kids to go back to school.

And they did.

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This time, they decided to get the kids new shoes for the new school year with the help of Unger’s Shoe Store.

Belinda Brown, an Income Maintenance Worker 3 and the president of AFSCME Local 3319, said that the foster parents were grateful for the clothes, but they told the workers that one of their big concerns is getting shoes and clothes for the kids when school rolls around in the fall.

“So, we decided to go with the shoe project,” she said.

“We finished the clothes in May and then we started fundraising in July,” said Tenneka Ferguson, Social Services supervisor. “So it was a quick turnaround.”

All involved realized that it would be around $3,000 to get shoes for the kids. So they started doing fundraising again.

“We had different types of fundraisers to get the money,” said Missy Holmes, vice president of AFSCME Local 890. “Everybody in the building really responded.”

Terry Porter, director of the Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services, said it was really a community event.

“I really appreciate the union and management people at this agency and the people in the community joining together for this great benefit to help these children,” he said.

They had a bake sale and a silent auction that raised over $1,600 by inviting officeholders running for office. And they had a basket raffle including one that had tickets for a Reds game.

“We got everyone involved, from management to workers,” said Brown. Adding that once word got out about their efforts, there were people and businesses that kicked in money.

In some cases, they just wanted to do it anonymously.

Brown said that after a Lawrence County Commission meeting, a man walked up to her and just handed her a $100 bill. She asked for his name.

“He said ‘You don’t need to know my name. I just want to help these kids,’” she said.

“We had businesses, family members that knew what we were working on and wanted to give us money,” Holmes said.

And when all their fundraising efforts came up a little short to pay for shoes, they just hit up everyone at their office.

“We said to everybody here, ‘We need money now to finish this off and get these kids their shoes,” said Holmes. “And everyone here was generous enough to pull some money out and throw it in so we could pay it off.”

Some parents picked out tennis shoes; others picked leather shoes like Sperry’s.

“All were from Unger’s, so we knew they were top notch,” Brown said. “Joe Unger gave us those shoes at cost, he made no money on it.”

Brown added that Joe Unger and the staff had the children come in to get their feet measured to ensure a proper fit.

“They took the time while making no profit, just for these kids,” said Ferguson. Some kids had to have shoes ordered, in some cases because they had a special requirement like a wider feet.

Brown said that another group that helped them out was the Child Welfare Club.

“We had people who wanted to write checks, and we have no tax exempt status,” Brown explained. “They allowed us to use one of their accounts to collect money. That was very nice of them.”

Once all 61 kids had shoes, it turned out there was some money left over. So, they helped address another one of the foster parents’ concerns- school supplies. They got a school supply list. Then they got backpacks and filled them up with all the school supplies they could.

“We tried to fill the majority of the list,” Holmes said. “We got them that to them before school started.”