Cleveland Angels Connection
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
What many families and volunteers have found after joining our Cleveland Angels program is that there is a very special bond between a Love Box group and the family they serve. Two groups of people, who often have never met before, suddenly become constant forces of love, support, and understanding in one another’s lives. In the case of foster parents Leanne and Dustin, they found that they really did develop a strong bond with the volunteers who came to their house to deliver their Love Boxes. Those volunteers are Cynthia and her daughter Sarah. This post is a feature of both of their stories and experiences with Cleveland Angels interconnected with one another since they have both become such important parts of each other’s lives. We are so grateful to have all of these wonderful people in our organization, as they exemplify exactly what we are trying to do for the Cleveland foster care community.
Leanne and Dustin have been one of the incredible families in our Love Box program since this past winter. They are proud foster parents right now to two babies, one 13 months old and the other 7 weeks old. Leanne and Dustin’s journey with foster care began early in their marriage when they found out they would not be able to have biological children. Years later, they realized that they still had room in their hearts and home and decided to be a safe place for young children to learn and grow until their parents and/or family could provide them with the life they deserve. They became certified foster parents last June, and within 45 minutes of being a certified foster home, they got their first placement and took in a set of young siblings that very night. They cared for those children for seven weeks and after taking a month off to regroup, took in their third child in September and their fourth only a few weeks ago.
Cynthia and Sarah are a mother daughter duo who have been volunteers in our Love Box program since this past February. Cynthia explained that Sarah and her were looking for volunteer opportunities they could do together and after their neighbor told them about Cleveland Angels, they knew it was what they were called to do. They saw it as a perfect opportunity for them to do something together that would hopefully bring other people support and joy.
Leanne and Dustin found their way to Cleveland Angels after hearing about the organization from a fellow foster parent. They decided to gauge their interest in participating by attending our summer picnic and found that although they only knew one person there, everyone was welcoming and inviting. They had a wonderful time visiting with the other families, the kids were able to run around and play, and from that point forward, they knew they wanted to continue growing with Cleveland Angels.
Fast forward a few months to the winter of 2020 and Leanne and Dustin were matched with their first Love Box group, which included volunteers Cynthia and Sarah. Cynthia explained that the first time they got together at their house they felt like the two families immediately clicked. They spent their time listening to Dustin and Leanne explain what it means to them to be a foster family and the emotional and physical challenges they face. Leanne explained that since Cynthia and Sarah have become acquainted with their family, “they have walked alongside them, let them know they can do hard things, cried with them, laughed with them, and blessed them the entire time."
Both fostering and being a volunteer have their own unique challenges, but also reap rewards that make the entire process worth it. Leanne explained that “fostering has been the hardest thing [they have] ever done mentally and emotionally, [but] it has also been the most rewarding. Staying connected to other foster families has been a tremendous blessing and [they] suggest finding a group of other foster parents to stay in connection with. Learning to accept any support you can is also huge.”
“For someone who is proactive and a planner, fostering often throws you curveballs and with so many working pieces and people it can be difficult to plan ahead. Not being able to see the full picture can be difficult too. You have to stay focused on the children and provide them with the home they need during that time.” -Leanne
Sarah and Cynthia have recently been facing a challenge that many of our volunteers can relate to, which is having to figure out how to support their family during a global pandemic. Cynthia explained that they are doing their best to be there for them by keeping in touch by talking through the storm door at their house, and dropping off meals on the porch.
In regards to the rewarding aspects of foster care, Leanne explained that getting to watch the children grow and learn is extremely rewarding. “Helping them on their journey is so sweet and even though you won't always get to see the fruits of that labor, knowing that you helped them during a season of their life is so worth it. It's also rewarding if the situation allows you to walk alongside the parent(s) in any way and help them to be the people they need to be for their children.”
When asked what mark Sarah and her hope to leave on the Cleveland foster care community, Cynthia said, “It is my hope that Sarah and I can be a positive source of support for the entire family, allowing the children to know that they have a wide network of people who love them, and being there as someone to lean-on for the foster parents. Everyone needs love, support, and understanding!”
Both of these families exemplify what Cleveland Angels stands for — compassion, understanding, perseverance, and most importantly, love. We could not be more grateful to have them in our community and we can’t wait to see how their families grow and flourish.