Trudy Wakefield, Hope Forti, and Poet Laureate Georgina Marie at the training
Hope Forti, director of Families Together and former Lake County kid, sits underneath an oak tree, twenty feet from the shores of Clear Lake. The afternoon sun’s still bright, but filters through the still-bright green oak leaves, reaching the grass in specks and spots. Hope’s holding a training for the Neighbors Program, a simple way that people can help foster families. Right now, she’s sharing some sobering statistics for Lake County. “There were nine hundred and twenty five reported child victims of abuse and neglect in Lake county in 2018,” she says. “That is one child abuse report every ten hours,” she continues. “Right now, on a given day, eighty of Lake County’s children are in foster care. And people feel that if they can’t save the situation, they won’t do anything to help at all.” But Hope has created a program to allow people to help without having to rescue anyone: just deliver one meal a month to a foster family.
Hope thought up this simple plan after her own experience as a foster parent. “It’s overwhelming,” she said, “And there’s a sense of loneliness. I started the Families Together program to help foster families who may feel like they’re drowning, to give them a network of support. Most foster parents I know don’t have a village around them.
“People know how to support each other, especially here in Lake County. They just need to be connected. I knew that there were a few foster moms where I lived in Colorado Springs and knew I had a friend who could put bring them dinner. We had one family, then five families, then ten. We want to be the matchmaker between someone who wants to help a family and a family who wants support.”
Here’s how the program works. A foster family in need of practical support, like a meal a month, applies to the Family’s Together Program. They get connected with a volunteer who agrees to give them a monthly meal and get acquainted with the family. For six months, the program continues. After that, the family and neighbor are free to continue and grow the friendship on their own terms. It’s not a difficult process. You can deliver a homemade meal, take-out, grocery store food, or a care package, so it fits in your schedule.
It’s not impossible to implement change in Lake County. In fact, change can come simply, with one small step. A meal a month is such a small commitment but can have a profound impact. We have so much in our lives; this is an easy way to give something back.
Love is always worth it,” Hope continues. “For me, that’s the best way to heal this mental health emergency and broken system. You bring people together.”
To hear Hope’s story and to get involved in the Neighbors program, visit their website. You can also learn more on Michelle Scully’s Gathering Podcast, located on The Bloom or wherever you get your podcasts.