A Surprise Birthday Party for a Special Teen

As an organization that thrives on the generosity and kindness of others, we believe we’re only as strong as the communities that support us. Our Augusta Regional Office opened its doors just a year and a half ago. Yet, the staff, churches and foster families involved are already making a huge difference in the lives of children in care in the Augusta area—children like Tia. Tia was placed with the Ramos family of Augusta in early September of this year as their very first placement. Although the Ramos’ don’t have children of their own, their home was already set up to foster teenagers, which is much needed in all of the areas that we serve. When Bonnie and Aaron Ramos received the call, they were overjoyed, learning that Tia would be coming to live with them the very next day. Tia’s placement also happened to fall the day before another very important one—her 13th birthday. Without adequate supplies to welcome Tia on a moment’s notice (much less, birthday gifts!), the couple turned to the church’s foster care ministry at their home church in Augusta, Wesley United Methodist, to collect clothes and other items for Tia to enjoy. Churches that support UMCH foster families across the state are trained and equipped to have their own foster care ministry, and a component of that ministry is Care Connection. Volunteers provide support for foster families within their church, allowing the families to focus on their children while receiving the help they need—including meals, household help, babysitting and transportation assistance. Wesley UMC’s Care Connection “Angel,” Leina Lunghi, sprang into immediate action to gather what was needed for Tia. Leina shared the need for certain-sized clothes and specific supplies on Facebook (as well as the note that it was soon to be Tia’s birthday), and with less than a 24-hour turnaround, Wesley UMC responded in a huge way. Members from the church brought bags and bags of clothes and other items for Tia’s arrival. Knowing Tia was a soon-to-be 13 year old, a mom’s group at the church also donated new art supplies, makeup and a Target gift card. This was only the beginning! When Tia arrived at the Ramos’ house, her new foster mom Bonnie and a Wesley church member took her on a shopping spree at Kohl’s, giving Tia control of choosing her own wardrobe. Although a normal task for most, shopping gave Tia a powerful sense of independence and ownership on her first day in a brand new environment. At the end of the day, Tia had a new, loving community who welcomed her with open arms—along with a stocked closet. The Ramos and families from Wesley church also gathered to celebrate Tia’s birthday, going roller skating at a local spot and enjoying birthday cake after. Tia was able to meet families from the church, which she is currently attending with the Ramos. Wesley UMC showed up when it mattered most for Tia. Such a warm and impactful welcome wouldn’t have been possible without the volunteers in the church’s Care Connection, including the dedication of the program’s Angel and Recruiter. Although our presence in Augusta is new, the community is embracing the need for foster families and volunteers. Our Augusta Regional Office plans to serve 8 children by the end of this year, and 20 children by the end of 2019. The churches, volunteers and foster families in Augusta are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of 400+ children in their area in foster care who deserve loving and nurturing homes. And they are just getting started! Does your church have a foster care ministry for you to become involved and make a difference in the lives of kids like Tia? To learn more, please contact Rev. Dave Allen Grady, UMCH Director of Church Relations (dallengrady@umchildrenshome.org) or Kate Schrum, Director of Development (kschrum@umchildrenshom.org).