<b>Organization fills unmet needs for children in foster system</b>

When a business sees a need and creates a product to meet that need, money is made. When a kind-hearted person sees a child’s need and creates a nonprofit to meet that need, lives are changed.

Operating more than 10 programs in the Miami Valley, the Dayton chapter of For Love of Children (FLOC) serves over 6,000 area children annually, providing advocacy, enrichment and educational support for children in need. Many of the programs that FLOC provides were started because hardship was seen in the life of one child.

Comfort a Child

Beth Mann, president of FLOC, which is supported entirely by volunteers and donations, recalls one of the first stories she was told by a young lady taken into foster care. When this girl was removed from her home, scared and bewildered, she was given a trash bag in which to collect her belongings.

No matter how deplorable the conditions are in a child’s home, it’s their home, and that’s what they know, Mann said.

“What stood out was the tragedy of starting a new chapter of your life with a trash bag,” said Mann. “I don’t know how you can make that a positive moment of transition.”

And the Comfort a Child program was born.

“Now each case worker has duffle bags in their cars, so that when they are making a transition, each child gets a duffle bag,” said Mann. “In one of the most difficult moments of a child’s life, the duffle bag shows that someone cares and supports them.”

One young boy was making the transition into foster care on Christmas. When he was given the duffle bag, he said to his caseworker, “Oh, is this my Christmas present?”

“It’s heartbreaking but also deeply fulfilling,” Mann said.

The Boutique

With a similar start-up story, The Boutique provides formal wear for youth in the foster care system. When children in foster care change homes anywhere from five-to-seven times in high school alone, making friends and participating in high school milestones such as prom often can feel like a far-off dream to them.

One day, Mann asked a young woman if she would be attending the Winter Ball, a dance held by Children's Services for youth in transition. The girl said she had no means to do so – thus, the idea for The Boutique was born. In addition to the formal wear and shoes that are provided at no cost, each youth receives a hygiene bag, jewelry, and on special occasions, a trip to the hairdresser.

Birthday Club

Thanks to the FLOC Birthday Club, every child in the foster care system receives a gift on his or her birthday. When the board of FLOC learned that children in the foster system often have no idea of the date of their birth, the organization recruited two area detectives, who volunteered to find and document the birthdays of more than 200 children. Once the children's birthdays were identified, FLOC began sending a special wrapped gift to each child.

“Sometimes, we are the only ones who remember their birthdays,” said Mann.

Reaching every child

Local kids who can't count on a mom or dad to be there for them can count on FLOC. In addition to the programs already mentioned, FLOC operates Christmas for Kids, providing Christmas gifts to more than 28,000 kids in the past 11 years. The FLOC Grant a Wish program has provided children with computers, access to camps, and opportunities across the country, granting hundreds of wishes that simply honor and celebrate the children referred.

FLOC also operates a tutoring center and partners with local agencies to host an anti-bullying rally, in addition to several other programs. Their entire focus is on helping Dayton-area children, birth to 18, receive vital services that improve their quality of life.

Without volunteers and donations, FLOC couldn’t impact children in such deep and meaningful ways.

“Every penny of every dollar goes directly to the children we are serving,” said Mann. “It’s such an honor. It’s so humbling to see how quickly and easily you can create support for kids. It’s like getting hugged 24/7.”

FLOC can accept donations of new items to support any of their programs: gifts for Christmas, school supplies, and hygiene items. Formal wear for The Boutique can be new or gently used, and FLOC relies heavily on financial contributions provided by generous donors.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can support any of the FLOC programs or volunteer to help, call (937) 223-3562, or you can visit flocdayton.org.

For Love of Children