As part of the KloecknerCares program, employees from the corporate office in Roswell recently volunteered at the Foster Care Support Foundation. The Roswell-based foundation provides free clothing, infant equipment, developmental toys, and more for children in foster and relative care across Georgia.
Originally started out of founder Rachel Ewald’s garage, the foundation now has a 20,000 square foot facility that is just bursting at the seams with items. The facility includes a store where families can come and shop for items they need. The store is organized by gender and age, much like a normal department store. Clothing is even rotated seasonally.
“This organization is just fantastic,” said Kloeckner Sustainability Process Manager Bonnie Stewart. “It is all free to the people who shop there.”
Over the years, Rachel and her husband have fostered 50 children. Foster children often enter these homes with only the clothes on their backs. They sometimes also wind up leaving with only the clothes on their backs, as the foster families need to reuse items on the next children to come through. Rachel wanted to provide these children with items they can truly call their own, so when a foster family has a new child they can come back to the Foster Care Support Foundation for more items. When Rachel realized that relative care does not receive government subsidies like foster families do, the organization really started to grow. This facility is open to these families too, filling a vital need for families in need.
“There are a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren now, for whatever reason, and they don’t get any help financially,” Bonnie said. “We thought of one grandfather who was retired, so he and his wife were on social security for the two of them. Then, all of a sudden, they had their four grandchildren living there.”
Over 50 Kloeckner employees volunteered their time and labor to help at the foundation over the course of three separate days. Each day involved a four-hour shift where volunteers performed a variety of tasks at the store. Some volunteers worked in the warehouse portion of the facility where they played with toys to make sure they worked and had all their parts. Some organized. Others received shopping lists for families that live out of town and could not make it into the facility themselves. The items are then packaged and shipped to these families at no cost.
“Everybody that I talked to in the group of us that went really thought it was a great organization, and they really got a lot out of it,” Bonnie said. “Some of our employees brought their teenagers, so that was an eye-opener for them.”
In addition to the volunteer work, Kloeckner’s CEO approved a $2,000 donation which will help go toward the foundation’s operating costs. The foundation has 15 full-time employees, but the rest of the work is done entirely by volunteers. While all the items at the store are all donated, they are carefully sorted so that only the items in the best condition make it into the store. Items that are damaged, missing parts, missing buttons, stained, or anything like that are set aside. Some of the items that do make it to the store even have the tags still on them, having never been worn.
“One other thing that they do for the teenage girls who are going to prom is they have a “Say Yes to the Dress” day for prom,” Bonnie said. “Foster girls who are teenagers can come in and shop for prom dresses, and they’re free. How horrible would it be if you were invited to the prom but you can’ go because you don’t have anything to wear?”
Kloeckner also recently approved a voluntary time off policy, and Bonnie believes that some of the volunteers will come back to the foundation to help again. Employees can now get up to two paid days in a calendar year to volunteer somewhere and not have to use vacation time. Bonnie is also looking for more charities to include in the KloecknerCares program as momentum builds.
“I’m trying to encourage other employees to let me know about any other charitable organizations that they know of where we could do something,” Bonnie said. “People are asking me, ‘What are we going to do next?’ I’m trying to send information out to the different branches, putting stuff on our Yammer, and our CEO John Ganem is very supportive of this.”