"We’re moms!” This is said with a smile that only a parent would recognize. The words seem to shoot beyond the mouth of the speaker as it sparks their eyes and seems to make their faces glow. As staff members of Citizens Caring for Children (CCC) respond to inquiries about what motivates them, they automatically mention their own little ones and it becomes vividly obvious what this venture means to each of them. They’ve found a way to turn a true passion into a successful non-profit organization that helps clothe children in foster care.
For the hard working mothers at this nearly three-decade-old foundation, advocating for children in a crowded DHS (Department of Human Services) system is reason enough to head to work every day. This is what it truly means to care.
Fulfilling Their Needs
For one foster family, the care they were receiving from DHS in 1984 was simply not enough to meet the demands of their growing foster family. George and Rose Harper decided to take matters in their own hands and truly advocate for their children. “They realized that there was more that they needed to [properly] care for the kids in terms of clothing and [other] resources,” says Amy Mitchell, Executive Director of CCC. “They started working with First Presbyterian Church of Edmond and [began] getting items donated. They [also] provided Christmas presents to children in foster care.” Their efforts started small, but quickly began to grow, becoming the CCC of today.
With the Harper family’s vision always in mind, Mitchell is proud to note the progress that the current team has made. “We have increased in the number of children we serve and in our presence in the community,” said Mitchell. CCC has become a United Way agency, adding programs that not only aim to fill closets with clothing and send birthday wishes to children in foster care, but also to help build self-esteem and dress kids up from head to toe in love—the best fashion accessory of all.
A Caring Mission for Children
CCC’s resource center is stocked with new, free clothing for kids. There are aisles filled with shoes, fun T-shirts, designer jeans and toiletry or personal items that some kids may be too afraid to ask for in their foster home. Kids are able to pick two outfits from the racks of clothes in the resource center four times a year and one outfit during the organization’s annual Back to School event. The kids also leave with a new pair of shoes, underwear, socks, a coat, two books and a duffle bag full of goodies. “Last year we served 4,021 kids through all of our programs,” says Michelle Landes, Development Director at CCC.
Families enter hoping to find items for the new child who has come into their lives and they leave with answered prayers, bright faces and a restored faith in seeing that some people do truly care. “They leave here, no matter how they come in, with big smiles on their faces. We make it fun for them, and I believe that part of that is building self-esteem,” says Mitchell.
It Takes a Village
Citizens Caring for Children creates an opportunity for the entire community to get involved and make a difference in the lives of foster kids. In addition to the annual fundraisers and drives that the non-profit sponsors, they also encourage people to help by volunteering to a mentor a child. “Our mentors are positive role models who go through background checks and do continuing training,” says Landes. Time spent with mentors makes a visible, positive mark on the children. “It’s a way for kids to get outside of their comfort zone, and [it] shows them that someone is there and cares about them.”
For years, the organization has taken a collaborative approach to reach their goals. Kevin Durant, forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, made headlines in December 2010 for helping to pass out Christmas gifts to underprivileged children. “We loved working with him and his team,” says Mitchell. “They were all about the kids. [They wanted to do] anything to make it good and memorable for the kids,” says Landes.
The staff is currently gearing up for their annual fundraiser, Bids for Kids, which will be held May 5. “It’s our major fundraiser that goes towards operating the resource center and our other programs,” says Mitchell. There are a number of ways that anyone can help CCC reach their goals. “Everything that we provide through the resource center is brand new. We are always looking for people to hold drives, and we also take donations. We serve birth to [age] 21,” says Landes.
Through their years of service, CCC has shown how long-term dedication can truly help advocate for kids who struggle with unfortunate circumstances. A scholarship fund and a music program are in the works, but the team is primarily focused on building permanent connections to the children with whom they come in contact. They hope to end a cycle of neglect by continuing to provide a voice for the thousands of children in the Oklahoma DHS system. “If we don’t help this generation, or some generation at some point, we’re never going to end this,” says Mitchell with a hopeful smile. “If they turn 18 and have no one, they can walk back in these doors and we’ll figure out a way to help.”
The 2012 Redbud Classic
Citizens Caring for Children is continuing to collaborate with other worthy causes by being the official beneficiary at this year’s Redbud Classic. More than 6,500 people participate in these annual races that aim to get families fit and involved in philanthropy.
The 2012 Redbud Classic features 5k and 10k runs, a 5k wheelchair event, a two mile walk, a baby stroller derby and a one mile children’s run. The biking events and children’s runs will take
place on Saturday, April 14, and the walking events are scheduled on Sunday, April 15. Updated information on the start times for each event, registration cost and participant sign up can be found at www.redbud.org.
The staff at Citizens Caring for Children hopes that the event will serve as a way for more people to learn about the organization. “We need volunteers to help with all the events on Saturday and the race on Sunday,” says Landes.
Show how much you care at www.citizenscaringforchildren.org.
is a pop culture enthusiast and writer. Raised in OKC, this Little Rock, AR, transplant is always on the hunt for the latest in celebrity and entertainment news. Follow him at lancee.gather.com.