A kind heart can only go so far. No one knows this better than Rachel Ewald.
Rachel and her husband Mark have fostered over 50 children in their lifetime, and they know how difficult it is to take in another.
The high cost of raising a child deters many from becoming foster parents, but it also makes it difficult for current foster parents to provide a quality lifestyle to their children.
"I went to the Department of Family and Children Services and met foster families struggling to meet the everyday needs of children," she recalls. "I decided that I could try to make a difference and change that."
Started in the Ewald family garage in 1996, Foster Care Support Foundation (FCSF) is committed to giving foster families throughout Georgia essential items to help them care for foster children without assuming a large financial burden.
In its first year, FCSF served over 650 families. Thirteen years later, the organization reaches nearly 4,000 foster families annually with an operating budget of $350,000, all of which comes from donations. FCSF also receives in-kind donations, giving it access to high-quality essential items to give to families.
"Our very first donation came from Judge Hatchett, a juvenile court judge in Atlanta," says Rachel. "We thought her $1,500 donation was like one million since we had nothing until then."
Set up like a retail storefront, FCSF invites foster children and their families to browse for clothing, toys, cribs, strollers, car seats, books, and more. Appointments to visit must be made through a caseworker, but once there, all items are free to families.
In addition to providing items, FCSF works with the Division of Family and Children Services to provide free trainings to foster parents. These trainings give parents a forum to voice their concerns, and get support and advice on how best to care for neglected or abused children.
The amount of love and support FCSF is providing to families on a weekly basis could not be done without the help of volunteers. But while many people are passionate about the work FCSF is doing, it takes more than passion to get things done. Rachel believes the organization could be doing a lot more, and volunteers are an important part of making that belief a reality.
"The biggest challenge we face is getting enough regulars to be ready to step into more than one role," says Rachel. Still, FCSF is thankful for the many volunteers they do receive. "I've been truly amazed at the amount of love people have when it comes to giving themselves to help underserved and needy children," she adds.
But for Rachel, the work that FCSF is doing is about much more than providing support to foster families -- it's about caring for the children. Their stories have been branded into Rachel's mind, and are what drive her to move forward each day.
One day a little boy came into FCSF with a broken arm and poor eyesight. Talking with the foster mother, Rachel learned that the boy's mother shook him as a baby which caused damage to his brain.
Rachel gave the boy and his foster family a new crib and stroller, new clothing, and some developmental toys to help him get up to the same speed as other children his age.
"He smiled at me as I bagged up his items and gave them to the foster mother," says Rachel. "These are the stories that make us love our work each week."
Yet despite the smiles and comfort FCSF brings to children, Rachel's overall vision is not nearly fulfilled. Within the next few years, the organization hopes to move into a larger building where they can extend their support services to things such as computer education programs. To purchase the new building, Foster Care Support Foundation needs to raise $1 million.
"Not everyone can be a foster parent," says Rachel. "But most can help in some way -- be it by giving time, giving goods, or giving funds."