Giving Back to Foster Kids in AZ

Today’s post is a little different from the norm. However, this blog post is probably the most important post I’ve ever written. This week, I stopped by Arizona Helping Hands, which is a non-profit organization which supports local foster families. I actually have quite a history with AZ Helping Hands (more on that below), but I am so excited to share this amazing organization with you.

Before I get started on my story with them, let me tell you a little bit about AZ Helping Hands. This organization is the state’s largest provider of basic needs for children in foster care. I was shocked to find out there are over 16,000 kids in foster care in Arizona alone. Helping Hands provides everything from beds, cribs and sheets to clothing, diapers and personal care items to help foster families give these kids the best environment they possibly can. On top of that, they provide holiday gifts, birthday gifts, party supplies and countless other small acts to make the kids feel special. Although the beds are what they are most known for, they really provide everything a foster family may need when they take in a child.

As a mom of two, unfortunate situations involving kids really hit a soft spot for me. During my visit to AZ Helping Hands this week, I was told all about babies frequently brought into their facility straight from the NICU after being born with drugs in their system. I was even told about a foster mom who brought in three boys and two of them (ages 5 and 7) didn’t know their own birthdays because they never once had been celebrated. These stories are absolutely heartbreaking and sadly happen far too often. Thankfully, AZ Helping Hands is here to help.

This year alone, they’ve already provided 2,045 beds to foster families and are on track to deliver over 3,000 by the end of the year. Helping Hands has provided 1,462 birthday gifts to children who may not have received a gift otherwise. They even provide foot lockers, a duffel bag and gift cards to older children to help them feel special. After all, the teenagers are at such an impressionable stage in their life and they may really need it the most. Over 642 different families have benefited from Helping Hands’ services this year that were provided strictly through donations.

So let me tell you my history with AZ Helping Hands since I have been supporting this organization for 3+ years. Back in 2015, my son Carter was 3 years old. He was at that stage when Christmas rolled around where he literally asked for every toy in the toy store. I did my best to explain to him we are blessed beyond belief, but I wanted to do a little more to try and teach him about giving back.  Although we have always donated toys around the holidays, my son thought putting perfectly good new toys in a random charity bin felt a lot like throwing them away.  So I put a post on my Facebook page asking if anyone knew of a place where we could donate a few Christmas gifts which would be a little more interactive.

A friend of mine connected me with a friend of hers named Sherie who still works tirelessly at AZ Helping Hands. Sherie was so sweet and brought my kids and me into their warehouse. She gave us a short tour of the facility and told the three of us all about what they do. Sherie was amazing because she spoke in such simple terms which really resonated with my three year old.  She also told me about the foster care tax credit which my husband and I now use to donate to AZ Helping Hands each year.  After our tour, we donated our gifts, some diapers and gently used clothing and went on our merry way. That was also the same year I started my blog, but I have never actually shared anything about this until now. Like I said, my main goal was really to keep my own kids from being bratty around the holidays while trying to help out a bit.

However, Sherie made such an impact that I invited a group of my mom friends to bring their kids along for the same tour the following year. I remember it being chaotic since we had over 10 kids there, but every single kid walked away knowing they were helping other kids that Christmas. This past year, Helping Hands realized it would be nice to host a breakfast open to the community with treats for the kids, a tour of the facility and a place to bring gifts for kids who really need it.  My husband I took our kids and it was a great event.  I was told this week that they are making the event even bigger this year.  I will be held on December 2, 2018 at 10 am at their new location if anyone wants to join. I’ll 100% be there!

Now you might be asking, “what can I do to help?“. Well, a lot.

The first thing will literally cost you 3 seconds of your time. The Phoenix Business Journal is giving away a $10,000 prize to the non-profit who receives the most votes in their latest contest. Helping Hands is currently in the lead, but not by much. The contest runs through the end of August and every single dollar will go toward helping more kids in need. All you need to do is CLICK HERE, scroll halfway down, select AZ Helping Hands and click vote.

If you live in Arizona, please consider donating through the foster care tax credit program that I briefly mentioned above. The limits are $500 for an individual or $1,000 for a married couple which is a dollar for dollar credit against on your annual taxes. This credit can be used IN ADDITION to the school credits, which many people may not know. We all should be making this donation annually because it literally costs you nothing after taxes.

If you have the means, also consider donating toys (all ages), gently used kids clothing or birthday party supplies. A lot of the toy bins were almost empty when I visited last week, especially for 1-2 year olds and 6-12 year olds. I know I plan to grab a few extra toys the next time I’m at Target.

To everyone who made it to the end of my post, thank you for learning more about this fabulous organization. To everyone who took the extra 3 seconds to vote, THANK YOU. And to everyone else who plans to donate, whether through the tax credit or personal donations, I’ll personally come over to your house and give you a hug.

I’ll be the first to admit, I used to only think of AZ Helping Hands around the holidays. However, the people at this organization are helping families year round at times when they need it the most. It makes me realize my problems pale in comparison to what these kids and their incredible foster parents are dealing with and it is the least I can do to give back. Thanks for considering doing the same.