Not everyone can foster a child, but everyone can help foster children.
It's a saying Austin non-profit Austin Angels lives by.
In a Buda home, Marci Chandler and a group of fellow Austin Angels volunteers fill cardboard boxes and gift bags with toys, clothes, groceries and paper goods.
"She loves cheetah print so we found these sunglasses," said Chandler as she describes one of the gifts.
They do this each month as part of the “Love Box” program.
"We pulled our friends together, our neighbors, our family,” said Chandler.
The group of about 15 families fill boxes with things the five foster children in their assigned family want, and things their single foster mom knows they need.
"We say okay for December it’s starting to get cold outside, let’s get them some winter clothes or maybe some toys, or maybe an extra Christmas gift," said Chandler. “The most important thing is just trying to give these kids things they just don't have."
She says it’s a lot of fun putting the care packages together.
"It’s just neat for the kids, just to see their faces light up,” said Chandler.
Brooke Paluch said she's always wanted to foster or adopt, and this seemed like the perfect way to help.
"It's an opportunity to open your heart if you can't open your door,” said Paluch.
She likes to get her kids involved in the process.
“I love taking my kids with me to help pick out the things for the little girl we shop for,” said Paluch.
The group even writes little notes of encouragement to the parents and kids.
As a former foster mom herself, Chandler understands the struggles and says this support would have helped.
"It can be a lot to juggle and it can be very emotionally challenging,” said Chandler. "There are a lot of challenges, they are meeting with CPS, with case workers, with the attorneys with CASA workers, court dates, meetings with the parents.”
"They just have to have someone on their side, they have to have someone there lifting them up and telling them it’s going to be okay,” said Paluch. "It’s a way that we can love on these kids, and love on these moms and emotionally support them."
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and these volunteers are part of the village for foster mom Carol Barnett.
Barnett has five foster children.
"I don't consider myself as a foster parent I consider myself more like a mother to them, a mother hen,” said Barnett. "It's really not that hard, you just need to have your mind made up, that's what you need to do."
While she said most days are great, she acknowledges some are tough, and says the Love Box group helps.
"At first I thought hey I could do it, but when they stepped in it’s like I have more support," said Barnett.
"Sometimes just those basic needs and to see people outside of their day to day life come in and say yes we care about you, you are important, and it is important for you to have these basic needs,” said Chandler.
Now, Barnett feels this group is almost fostering her.
"Without them, I was like, you know I was lost," said Barnett. "When they say God hears your prayers, and when I say hey, I need help, and then God say hey I got some angles for you, so that's when Austin angels came and said hey we have your support.”
These angels are delivering love, support and hope for foster families with each monthly box.
"It's a very easy way for everyone to donate a little to be able to bless a lot,” said Chandler.
"If you can't open your door to foster, but you felt that tug at your heart that you know this is where you're supposed to be, this is a way for you to do that,” said Paluch.
"They're there for us, support us,” said Barnett.
You can read more about Barnett’s story here. She’s currently working to adopt her foster children, but needs to find better living conditions.
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