Phoenix-based The Foster Alliance (formerly Arizona Helping Hands) supports the foster care community by providing essentials to benefit children in foster care. Here, Bethany Eggleston, vice president of Development & Marketing, discusses The Foster Alliance’s first Community Hub in Flagstaff, the recently launched Annual Support Campaign and how readers can become a #FosterAlly.
What prompted the start of the nonprofit? Twenty-five years ago, this organization began by simply helping the community through acts of kindness in any way we could. Sometimes we held neighborhood toy drives; other times we gave gifts in the form of scholarships and financial investments. A solid foundation was also laid through supporting and collaborating with other local agencies. Through our journey, we discovered clear needs within the foster community, officially shifting our mission’s focus in 2013. Today, we lean into the needs of the foster care community by providing beds, clothes, shoes, diapers and even birthday gifts to children experiencing foster care across the state of Arizona, and even into New Mexico through a partnership with the Navajo Nation.
What is the greatest reward in being involved with The Foster Alliance? Our job is to give children who have often never celebrated their birthdays a bike or even an Xbox for their big day. It is incredible to be able to pour out to this community with no need or expectation for them to do anything in return. Often, the trajectory of a foster child’s life is bleak, and we know that it is going to take all of us working together to help them change their stars. When we walk the aisles of our 15,000-plus-sq.-ft. warehouse, we are overwhelmed by the reality that every single item was brought here by a person, whether that is an individual, a family, a club or a company. Each toy, bike, pair of pants, box of diapers, toothbrush, and crib represents one of the thousands of #FosterAllies who trust us to make the journey easier for a child in foster care. The people in this community are here doing everything they can to prove to kids that they aren’t alone, they matter, and we won’t let them forget.
What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? In 2023, with the support of The Foster Alliance’s Board of Directors, our small team of 16 has been tirelessly working to break down the barriers foster families face when accessing our services. In February, we modified our service structure, allowing families to “shop” for complementary essentials at their convenience without an appointment, and return once every 30 days. The number of children we served tripled overnight.
Then in July, because of the support of donors through the Arizona State Foster Care Tax Credit Program, Phoenix Suns Charities, The Phillips Law Foundation, The Russ Lyon Foundation, and The Family and Friends of Dr. John Kriekard, we launched a mobile unit, allowing us to serve children when they need us and where they need us. Often, foster families throughout the state don’t have adequate transportation or are just too far away to travel to The Foster Family Resource Center at The Foster Alliance’s Thunderbird campus. During our inaugural journey, the #FosterAlly Mobile Unit made 12 stops from Page to Tucson, and Yuma to Window Rock, giving backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 800 foster children who previously did not have access to our services.
In 2022, we served 3,600 children through the Thunderbird campus’s essential services program, and in 2023 we served more than 8,300 children in foster care. These are amazing feats of impact, yet they come with challenges. Right away, our inventory decreased rapidly and, for the first time in The Foster Alliance’s history, our team had to find ways to get a steady stream of clothes and shoes on the shelves through purchasing. We absolutely cannot stomach watching a child walk out of our doors with no underwear, and unfortunately, that has happened. That is why the help of the community is imperative to our work.
What are your goals for the new year? With the help of Mercy Care, Coconino County, and so many others, in the spring of 2024, we are excited to open our first Community Hub in Flagstaff serving the foster community in Northern Arizona and beyond. This space will give foster families and caseworkers greater access to the essentials the children in their care need and serve as a much-needed space for groups and individuals in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas to engage and give back.
How can readers help? There are so many ways to lend a hand and become a #FosterAlly. You can volunteer at our centers or from the comfort of your home or office. To learn more, visit our website at thefosteralliance.org/volunteers. One of our volunteers’ favorite activities is building birthday gift bags for foster children. They select and wrap presents based on each child’s wishes, decorate their gift bag and create a special birthday card. We create 300 birthday gift bags each month, and it’s so much fun!
You can organize a drive to help us collect the brand-new toys, shoes, diapers and clothes each child needs, or even shop our Amazon Wishlist. To serve each of the 700 children we support each month, it takes A LOT of resources. Learn more at: thefosteralliance.org.
Finally, you can donate at www.thefosteralliance.org. We are a Qualified Foster Care Charitable Organization through the Arizona State Tax Credit program, so your donation of up to $1,051 could be given right back to you when you file your state tax return. Whether you can support one or hundreds of foster children, every dollar helps. Just $7 can give a child on the foster care journey socks for the week.
Does the nonprofit have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? Having just completed our biggest event of the year, The Holiday Joy Fest, where we give thousands of foster children across the state some holiday magic, we are now launching our Annual Support Campaign. This campaign lasts through April 15 and supports more than half of the work we do throughout the year.
As the largest provider of essential resources for children experiencing foster care, this year our campaign is focused on the Essential Services Program. Often, the 15,000 children in foster care in our state arrive at their new homes with nothing but the clothing on their backs. That is why this program is central to our mission. Your donation through the Arizona State Tax Credit Program isn’t just about toys and tax forms; it could help up to 10 Arizona families open their homes to children in foster care when they need them most.
Join the squad at www.thefosteralliance.org where you can donate, shop our wish lists, or volunteer.