I recently had the privilege to sit down with Lee Marshall, CEO and Founder, and Dorothy Havens, Director of Workforce Development, at Kids to Love. Like many of you, I was first introduced to Lee and Kids to Love when she served as a local news anchor. Lee founded Kids to Love in 2004. Since that time, Kids to Love has had an impact on over 200,000 foster children, helping over 300 of them find “forever homes”. In 2015, Lee had the opportunity to leave her anchor position to expand her work with the foundation. Now, she focuses full-time on helping as many foster children as possible. In addition to sharing the stories of local foster children, she leads the work at the Kids to Love Center – a longtime dream turned into an impressive center for hope thanks to a generous building donation from Mr. & Mrs. Louis Breland. The Kids to Love Center is a remarkable building, beautifully designed with details that make the occupants feel special. It houses a warehouse for Christmas and school supply drives, executive boards rooms, computer and hands on learning labs, as well as educational classrooms. As stated on the Kids to Love website, they “believe education is the key to changing lives,” so they have renovated the building to best use the space to provide and encourage educational opportunities. Several educational programs are run from within the center:
Group Preparation & Selection Program (also known as GPS classes): This is an onsite, ten week curriculum for those interested in adopting or fostering children. The class walks families through what they should expect on this venture and how to prepare for their new role as an adoptive or foster family.
Momentum For Life: This is an educational series focused on providing KTECH students the basic knowledge to develop into independent adults. The program focuses on topics like nutrition, physical fitness, developing relationships, financial health, interpersonal communication, resume writing, interview skills, integrity and how to take care of their surroundings.
KTECH: This workforce initiative was created to “provide specialized workforce training and credentialing for high demand occupations to a targeted, underserved population thereby addressing the following three areas: industry’s need for skilled workers, community’s need for increased employment rates and the individual’s need to be a productive, contributing member of society.” While serving those in foster care is a focus, the program is also available to veterans, and the community at large.
While I was certainly impressed by all facets of the organization, I was especially intrigued by the work that is happening with the KTECH program. KTECH is one of only two Siemens Certified Centers in the state of Alabama, allowing those who finish the class to test to become a Siemens Certified Mechatronics Systems Assistant. The coursework is taught by professional engineers. They have graduated one class from the program and are currently working with their second and third classes. In the first class, 100% of the students not only finished, but passed their Siemens certification and received job offers. Dorothy Havens joined Kids to Love in 2015 to focus her efforts on the KTECH program and helping students find jobs after completion of the course.
How To Give or Support
Kids to Love is a 501 (c)3 organization that has several opportunities to volunteer and give financially. In addition to the education programs listed above, they also need funding and volunteers for the following:
- Bibles For Kids – An opportunity to buy a foster child a bible for $5.
- Christmas For Kids – An annual drive for Christmas gifts for foster children. You can sponsor an entire wish list, donate individual items and money or volunteer to wrap presents.
- Camp Hope Alabama – S weekend camp that serves to reunite foster siblings that have been separated and offer them a home-like environment with fun activities.
- More than a Backpack – Sn annual school supply drive. Kids to Love sends out over 5,000 backpacks full of school supplies every year to students in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. There are opportunities to donate or host a drive.
- Scholarships – Kids to Love honors students each year with scholarships, giving out 448 scholarships since 2005.
- Davidson Farms – Through a generous gift from Dr. Dorothy Davidson, Kids to Love was able to purchase a 10,000 square foot home on 10 acres in Madison County. Davidson Farms is in the process of being renovated to offer a home for pre-teen and teen girls. They plan to open the doors in 2017 and need to raise $1 million before doing so. In addition to monetary donations, they are looking for donations of household furnishings, appliances, decorations, etc. There are also potential naming opportunities should you be interesting in sponsoring a room.
- Legacy gifts: Kids to Love also works with donors on legacy gifts. If you are interested in giving through your will or another future donation, they are happy to discuss options with you.
If you are passionate about helping children and are interested in learning more about Kids to Love, their programs or ways to volunteer or give, you can visit their website here.