On Giving Tuesday, help local neighbors in need

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By Megan Rose, CEO of Better Together

This time last year, Katie and Kevin, a family from Church of Hope, were making final preparations for a grand Thanksgiving feast. There were only a few days left, and like so many of us do, they hoped to get everything just right. Plans changed when their phone rang.

Katie and Kevin had just joined our Better Families program chapter in North Central Florida. They had volunteered to be a host family, which means they were willing to open their home to local children in the community who need a safe place to stay while their parents work to overcome hardships and get their lives back on track – preventing family breakup and the need for foster care.

The timing wasn’t ideal for Katie and Kevin. Life was busy, but then again, they hadn’t signed up to serve neighbors in crisis because it was convenient. They signed up because it was needed.

When they picked up the phone, it was Better Together. A 20-year-old single mother named Heather and her 2-month-old baby were days away from becoming homeless, right before Thanksgiving.

Heather was struggling with postpartum depression and drug addiction. She was alone, and starting to spiral. Child services was on her doorstep, and they referred her to Better Together.

Katie and Kevin immediately offered to care for the baby while Heather attended rehab. By Thanksgiving, Heather was in a treatment program, and the baby was snuggled up for the holidays with his hosts.

Three months later, Heather completed the program. With the peace of mind that her baby was safe and cared for, Heather could focus on finding a home and a job. Our staff helped her explore her options. She found a job and began taking her baby for extended visits, and eventually reunited for good.

To me, this is what Thanksgiving is about. It’s not about setting the perfect table – it’s about setting your wants aside for a moment and renewing your commitment to God’s compassion. We all have something we can give, whether it’s time, treasure or talent.

This Giving Tuesday (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) is a chance for you to make miracles happen in your own backyard, through donations to local efforts like our wrap-around work and family programs.

Our host families are not paid, which means all the food, clothes, cribs, stuffed animals, medicine, books, car seats, and all other needed items for the children in their care are provided by Better Together. They are either donated in-kind or paid for with monetary donations to our organization.

We have volunteer host families, parenting and marriage mentors, job fair organizers and greeters, door knockers, meal deliverers, career coaches, hurricane cleanup volunteers, family support coordinators and more. All of them need supplies to do their best work.

In the last month alone, we held a second chance job fair at Grace Church, where hundreds of people showed up looking for work. The line wrapped around the building. More than 115 job seekers received interviews (we’re still tallying!).

We hosted a little boy named Mikey for 30 days while his parents worked to get treatment, creating a strong and stable foundation for their family. We also hosted three young children while their parents took time to find jobs and secure affordable housing.

Through our Parents’ Night Out events we are giving numerous parents a much-needed night off to prevent burnout.

Our organization works in 24 Florida counties, where we have served more than 9,000 children and kept 98% of families together using our innovative hosting, mentoring and work programs. This is double the family reunification rate of Florida foster care.

We have a deep understanding of your community’s needs because we live here too. And because we are 100% privately funded, we have the flexibility to adapt when conditions on the ground change.

There are some 20,000 children in Florida foster care. Most of these kids have parents who love them, but their parents lived in loneliness, with no friends or family to ask for help. They bent so far, they finally broke.

These are people you see in the grocery store, the children on the school bus that passes your house each morning, the people you sit next to in church – and the people you don’t.

Maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer like Katie and Kevin. But you can support the people who do. Your local charities, and your neighbors, are counting on it.

Thanks to the generosity of a donor, you can double your impact by helping us meet a $25K match for funds given as part of Giving Tuesday.

Donate today: https://bettertogetherus.org/donations/personal-donation/

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We are Participating in Give4Marion, and Need Your Support!

Join us for a 33-hour campaign dedicated to raising money and awareness for nonprofit organizations doing good in Marion County. Fundraising kicks off today and ends at 7 p.m. tomorrow.