Volunteers at Fostering Hope in Conway know their efforts are worthwhile when they hear “This is one of the best days of my life’’ from an 8-year-old girl who selected clothes at the nonprofit’s center.
Like many children entering foster care, she had few clothes or things to call her own.
“It almost breaks your heart,’’ board president Al Stein says as he recalls the words the little girl told his wife Etta, who assisted her. Al and Etta Stein have been volunteers since Tabby Shelton started the nonprofit for foster children eight years ago.
Clothes and other back-to-school items had to be housed temporarily in a second floor location near the center, the former Hamp’s Hardware, 909 Fourth Ave., as remodeling continued at the former hardware store.
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For several years prior to the Feb. 9 move, Fostering Hope was at 1001 Second Ave.
“We had to come in here haphazardly,’’ Al Stein says.
Remodeling had fallen behind schedule, and the nonprofit had no time left at the Second Avenue location. About 45 volunteers helped with the move, including Coastal Carolina University students in the Star program.
Conway Ford and Palmetto Chevrolet donated the use of box trucks. Three pickup trucks and open trailers also hauled clothes and so forth to the new location. “We got it all done in five hours,’’ Stein says. Painting and the like still needed to be completed so the center was non-functioning for about two weeks after the move.
Stein is more than pleased with the new location. It is “open, airy and accessible and has adequate storage.’’ The 6,000 square feet are about evently divided for display areas and storage.
They made it happen with significant help from two Conway churches, St. Paul’s and the Church of Latter Day Saints, and volunteers, including two former neighbors of the Steins who donated 60 hours of carpentry.
“In January, February and March, in excess of 1,600 hours of volunteers’ time’’ were donated, Stein said.
A new resale boutique will provide a source of funds for underwear, socks and sneakers, which are purchased new for the children.
Other clothing is donated and back-to-school clothes in all sizes for kindergarten through high school is needed. Backpacks also are needed for high school students. Backpacks for younger children are in good supply, thanks to the Rotary Club of Little River, Shelton says. Metglas also helped with the move and provided a grant to purchase duffel bags and BB&T in Conway purchased sneakers and remodeled an outdoor area.
Gently used shoes are welcome as donations. The point for all donations is “we want them to be things kids will want to wear,’’ Shelton says. Besides four clothes areas, Fostering Hope has sections for shoes and books & toys. For the latter, CCU recreation and sport management classes of Colleen McGlone have for three years held a drive for sporting goods and each time donated 800 to 1,200 items including basketballs, soccer balls, baseball gloves, golf clubs.
Fostering Hope has grown far beyond what Shelton and her husband Rob imagined eight years ago. She estimates that on average up to 100 children are served every month, and in August that number will be 150 to 200. The children are from Horry and surrounding counties. Anyone looking for a place to volunteer or a nonprofit to support financially will be rewarded at Fostering Hope.