By Carla Bumstead
— Becoming a foster parent can often happen with little or no advance notice and virtually no time to prepare for the child’s arrival. Jennifer DeLeeuw of Charlotte knows this first-hand, as that is exactly how it happened for her family. It was this experience that led her to create a non-profit organization known as Guardian Angels Suitcases4Kids.
“We are a foster closet, gathering items like clothing, hygiene products, school supplies and furniture to help foster kids and foster families in Eaton and surrounding counties,” DeLeeuw said. “These things are provided to any licensed foster family or child in the foster care system.”
Formed in 2014, Guardian Angels is currently housed in a warehouse on Lovett Street in Charlotte. But they have been hoping to find a permanent home for some time.
Enter Ted and Karen Younts.
“We have been blessed beyond belief, and we’ve been gifted our very own building to be used as our forever home by Ted and Karen Younts with Coldwell Banker,” DeLeeuw said. “We should be closing on the building soon.”
The new site for Guardian Angels Suitcases4Kids will be the former Charlotte food pantry, Helping Hands. It is located at 600 S. Cochran just south of downtown. But the building needs a lot of work and to help with funding for the renovations DeLeeuw has established a GoFundMe account. She is hoping to raise $5,000. As of April 30, the effort was a little more than halfway there. The GoFundMe site is located at gofundme.com/f/suitcases4kidsmi-forever-home.
Denise Hummel is one of those who have recently donated.
“This is such a great cause,” stated Hummel in a donation comment. “I am excited to see Suitcases4Kids in this space.”
In addition to needing funds for the renovations, DeLeeuw said they are also welcoming donations of construction materials.
DeLeeuw explained she found out she was to become a foster parent when a sudden phone call provided the news during a lunch at Applebee’s. DeLeeuw is married to husband Matt DeLeeuw, and the couple now has three children.
“Becoming a foster parent really opened my eyes to what was needed by people who become foster parents unexpectedly, as when they take in relatives for example,” she said. “We realized the cost that comes with becoming a foster parent on the spot and that most families can’t financially afford to take someone in at the drop of a dime.”
Guardian Angels Suitcases4Kids usually takes in donations of both new and used items, but DeLeeuw said that, with the upcoming move, only new items are being accepted at this time. The GoFundMe effort is specifically for raising funds for the renovations to their new home.
To donate new items for foster families, or construction materials for the new building, call or text DeLeeuw at 517-231-0735. To donate money for the building renovation, visit the GoFundMe site at gofundme.com/f/suitcases4kidsmi-forever-home.