Story by Julia Baca. Photos courtesy of DFW Angels.
Erin White’s journey to becoming the President of DFW Angels began with a 3:00am Facebook scroll. After eight weeks of classes preparing to become foster parents, Erin and her husband got in the car and clearly knew it wasn’t the right path for them. Erin still wanted to make an impact in her community, so when a Facebook post from an organization called Austin Angels popped up, it felt front and center on her feed. “I started looking and knew this is exactly what I’m supposed to do,” shares Erin. Austin Angels was started by Susan Ramirez in 2003 and had blossomed into an impactful nonprofit providing support for foster children and their families. Erin said, “I emailed Susan in all caps and asked if there was anything like that in Dallas and she said there wasn’t, but her dream was to expand to every major city in the United States.” Erin and Susan began talking and DFW Angels was established, fully serving the community by 2018. One of the most important programs that Austin Angels piloted, and stands at the core of all Angels organizations, is the Love Box program.
Love Box became a way for the Angels to support foster children and their foster families. Erin says, “we wanted to know why foster families were failing and why people were quitting the fostering experience. What we found was that kids were being supported, but as a whole, the foster family wasn’t being supported.” Love Box matches families with volunteers and those volunteers become a support system for the family as a whole. Volunteers commit to building strong relationships with their families for at least a year or until adoption takes place. Each month volunteers spend time with the families and bring fun boxes of goods to help support them on their foster journey. Volunteers coordinate dinners, luncheons, or build a box with school supplies, toys, and care items. DFW Angels thrives because of its hands-on volunteers who become a steady source of support and comfort for these families.
To match volunteers with families, DFW Angels runs two databases. One is a referral database for foster family referral. Agencies, foster families themselves, and case managers make recommendations for families in the DFW area. The other database is for volunteers who want to be matched with a family. Volunteers are then matched with a family within a 20 mile radius and serves as their Love Box Group. Erin mentioned that the great thing about the program is that Love Box Groups can be one person, a neighborhood, or a whole family. “They say when you have kids, it takes a village, so these volunteers become a part of that family’s village,” Erin explains.
COVID-19 has brought challenging circumstances for the organization, its volunteers, and the foster children alike. In the recent months, DFW Angels has had to cancel two major annual fundraisers all while seeing an increase in kids placed in foster care. These days, the Love Box volunteer program looks a little different. Volunteers have adapted and adjusted to the circumstances, finding other ways to connect with their families. Erin and her two case managers on staff have helped volunteers find creative ways to continue reaching their families. Whether it is through video chats during dinners, sending chalk and bubbles, or making time for a phone call, volunteers are continuing to help their families thrive. Erin says one of the most impactful Angels stories is about a single foster dad named Kevin. A few months ago DFW Angels received a referral to help Kevin, a foster dad who had already taken four foster children into his home and then received a call to take in a sibling set of two. Going from a family of five to a family of seven is no small task! The two newest children came to Kevin’s home with very little and needed all of the basic necessities. The DFW Angel team quickly stepped in and created a set of clothing and essential items for the dad to pick up. Word about the need quickly spread and Erin was blown away by the community’s generosity. DFW Angels was able to give the family $2,000 worth of gift cards, fresh meals, and groceries, and split the rest of the money raised among ten other families with gift cards to local restaurants. “Just like that, in this time of uncertainty, we had people coming out of the woodworks and raise $4,000 in 24 hours for our foster families,” expressed Erin.
Not only in these trying times, but also throughout the year, DFW Angels relies on the community for support. “We’re based on relationships,” Erin emphasizes. “If you’re looking for a nonprofit to get involved in where it’s more than just giving a tangible good or just your money and you have time to give, I urge you to sign up to volunteer and be a Love Box Leader.” Erin also mentioned that tangible and monetary donations are always helpful. She says, “without money and volunteers, we don’t function.”
DFW Angels serves between 64 and 70 children on a monthly basis. The Angels network now spans 20 chapters across America and they continue to provide much-needed support to foster children and their families. If you’d like to support DFW Angels by making a donation, or becoming a Love Box volunteer, visit dfwangels.org or check out their North Texas Giving Tuesday Now page.
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!