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Nonprofit provides clothing, aid for local foster children

Foster parents have made the decision to open their hearts and their homes to children in need, no matter the circumstances.

But with the decision comes the reality that at any moment, you may have to care for a child. Rarely are you given much advance notice in order to have clothing, food, even a bed ready for them, said Heidi Murray, a Johnson County foster parent.

“We had a child come to us in the middle of the night, an infant. She had just a shirt and socks on. No diaper bag, no bottle, they didn’t even know what her name was when she was placed with us,” said Murray, who co-founded the nonprofit Resources of Hope to support foster families. “Most kids come with nothing. That’s more common than not.”

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Resources of Hope has only been in operation for less than a year. But already, its mission has made an impact for local foster families. Besides providing clothing, diapers, formula and other immediate ne, the organization offers support, classes and other services to ensure that the fostering experience is successful for parents and children.

Founders of the organization hope to be a lifeline for foster families in their greatest time of need.

“If you have children coming to you who have nothing, that can be a lot of money to put up at first to provide for those immediate necessities,” said Summer Huber, co-founder of Resources of Hope and a foster parent herself. “Now, families can come here and get what they need for free.”

Inside the home of Resources of Hope, hundr of shirts, pants, sweaters and shorts are arranged by size, color and for boys or girls.

The small office space in Whiteland is filled with clothes for infants, toddlers, children and teenagers. Shoes are sorted in bins and on shelves. Packages of new underwear, socks and other accessories hang from hooks, ready to be picked up.

At first glance, the items are simple necessities that every child should have. But that’s often the case when it comes to foster children.

“You just figure it out. You go to the store, buy whatever you can for that first week, until you can find some resources,” Huber said.

In January, Johnson County had 47 children placed in out-of-family foster homes, while Indiana saw more than 6,700 foster placements over the course of the month.

Both Murray and Huber have experienced the unique difficulties of being a foster parent. Murray and her husband have been foster parents for more than three years, having 10 different placements over that time. Only two or three came with basic necessities such as clothing. They had to figure out the system on the fly, with little guidance as they attempted to navigate the unexpected.

“In Johnson County, there just aren’t that many services for foster families. There’s not a lot of support,” Murray said.

The idea for a resource for foster families started with Murray and her husband. Through their experience, they wanted to provide help for those families with clothing and other ne.

At first, they approached local consignment stores, who offered to donate items to them as a way to help.

“We went that first time to pick up donations, and thought it would be a few things. It ended up being a storage unit full of clothing,” Murray said. “We started taking it home truckload by truckload.”

The initial inception of Resources of Hope operated out of the garage of Murray’s home. She contacted foster families that she knew, and let them know what was available.

Very quickly, it became clear that this was a huge need, and would require more space than just her garage.

“It became overwhelming — there was so much stuff and so many families. So I put a Facebook message out that I needed help, and (Huber) came over,” she said.

In addition to being a foster parent herself, Huber has a background in social work and wanted to earn her master’s degree in it. They decided in May 2018 to turn the effort into a recognized nonprofit group in order to serve more children and offer more services.

After assembling a board of directors and finishing the requisite paperwork to file as a government-recognized nonprofit, Resources of Hope was approved in June 2018.

The organization has been serving families since October. People can come to the office and shop for the items that they need. Kids can point out the styles, colors and characters that they like. Parents can get the exact pants or shirts or accessories that they need.

“It’s unique. There are a lot of closets like this in Marion County, but it’s more like a bag pickup. You never really know what you’re going to get,” Huber said. “We wanted to let families come in and shop.”

The growth of Resources of Hope has been on a steadily upward trajectory. The group has moved from Murray’s home to an office in Whiteland to a larger office that is now their headquarters. In their first month, they served 55 children. More and more people have continued to come.

In December, Murray and Huber worked with Leadership Johnson County to collect toys and new pajamas to give local foster children for Christmas. The area community responded, donating 450 toys, more than 120 pairs of pajamas and $2,425 in cash donations.

At the Christmas party, 157 children from more than 50 families received toys and pajamas. The collection also left Resources of Hope with more than $600 to help with future costs.

“That just wouldn’t have been possible without (Leadership Johnson County’s) support and the community around them,” Huber said.

Though the clothing closet is the main focus of Resources of Hope, organizers hope to made their location the epicenter for all kinds of different foster family services.

A specific room has been set aside in the organization’s new home for training sessions such as prevention of sexual abuse and suicide. The group plans to have foster parent support groups so area parents can connect and form a community.

“Our whole mission is to meet the emotional and physical ne of foster children living in Johnson and surrounding counties. A big part of that is providing support for foster families, because if the families aren’t being supported, they can’t support that foster child,” Huber said.

Resources of Hope also has formed Teen Connect, a group for young people who are in foster care so they can connect. Sessions would include craft nights, going to see movies together and other fun-filled activities.

“Foster care can be isolating in general for youth, especially when you’re coming from a culture or area or neighborhood that is totally different from where you are now moving to. It can be hard to find people to connect with,” Huber said. “Coming to Teen Connect, everyone who is there is in foster care.”

The growth Resources of Hope has experienced has been made possible by support from all over the Johnson County community. The organization will continue to reach out to the community, accepting monetary donations as well as gently used and new clothing. A fundraising gala is planned for June to help generate more funding, and the organization is one of the charities that will benefit from the annual Rock the Block event in April.

But Huber and Murray have both found that a large segment of the population — both foster parents and the general public — is unaware of the work they’re doing.

“The main challenge is getting the word out there, and letting people know our specific ne. The people we have found have been really supportive, but we’re serving 20,000 children in foster care in the state of Indiana. We have people come from all over,” Huber said.

Resources of Hope

What: A nonprofit that provides resources to meet the physical and emotional ne of foster youth living in Johnson and surrounding counties.

Where: 410 U.S. 31 Suite R, Whiteland

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of the month

Founders: Heidi Murray and Summer Huber

Programs:

A clothing closet available to provide up to a week’s worth of clothing for children in foster care, including shoes, socks, underwear and other accessoriesFoster parent and community training, including suicide prevention and sexual abuse preventionSupport for foster parentsActivities and meetings for teens in foster care

How to help:

Monetary donations, which can be done on the organization’s websiteGently used or new clothing (nothing stains, rips, etc.)Big ne: Toddler underwear, 2T to size 6; toddler socks; diapers and wipesCorporate and individual sponsorships for its programs are also being accepted

Information: resourcesofhope.org