69 News asked our reporters to revisit a story they covered this past year that stuck with them, long after the story aired. 69 News Reporter Rose Itzcovitz shares her story.
I absolutely love getting to cover fun events that mean something to the community. This one story I covered last July started out for me as one of those events. But as I learned more, it struck a chord deep within me. It was a story about adopting and fostering children.
We covered an event called “Tacos with a Side of Kindness” on July 27 at Flavor Nation in Emmaus. What’s not to love about tacos? Not to mention, there were yard games, live music and a dunk tank. I even got in there and let some folks knock me down.
The event was to raise money for The Kindness Project.
It’s there for any resources you can think of, for foster families in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. It’s 100 percent community-funded and 100 percent free for foster families.
“Everything they need, such as clothing, shoes, hygiene items, beds, car seats,” Jenae Holtzhafer, founder and executive director of The Kindness Project, told me that day.
Adopting and fostering is something that’s long been very important to me. Starting in 2008, I lived in Niger, West Africa, for two and a half years. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world.
There, I could really see just how many kids were without parents, in clear sight, out begging on the streets.
People say there are plenty who need help right here in the U.S. That’s true. But because over there it’s so obvious, it really opened my eyes to the need.
Since then, I always said one day I would foster and adopt. Time passed and my husband and I seemed to constantly have hectic and opposite schedules. I unexpectedly got pregnant. There was always some reason we couldn’t do it.
I met Jenae Holtzhafer at that July event. Like me, she had been looking into fostering.
“My husband and I decided to become foster parents,” Holtzhafer says in a promotional video from The Kindness Project. “And through that licensing process we learned that there weren’t many free resources to families outside of their daily stipend.”
But unlike me, in the meantime, she was doing something for the cause.
In the promotional video, foster parents, like Rebecca Davis, testify about the great need for resources.
“We had our first foster placement in the middle of August 2019, and she was an emergency placement and we had nothing for her,” Davis says.
“So it was really important to us to kind of create something that gave those resources for free immediately when the child was placed,” Holtzhafer continues in the video.
What really stuck with me that day is the need we have right here. I could always see it in Africa. But it’s huge here, too. Jenae told me that day, hundreds of kids are in foster care in Lehigh and surrounding counties alone.
She called the need for foster families a crisis.
“If there’s not enough foster families,” she said, “they end up having to stay at the government center with case workers sleeping with them until we can find a place for them to go.”
That’s when I thought, maybe today I won’t become a foster parent. But I can use my job to shine more of a light on this in the meantime.
We’ll have more on what this project is up to in coming months.
Since that day, The Kindness Project has expanded outside the Lehigh Valley. It now has a second store full of free resources in Monroe County. Holtzhafer tells me this month they had double the new kids registered with The Kindness Project than this time last year.
To learn how you can help and get involved head to the Kindness Project website.
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