Nonprofit provides safe space for young adults who have experienced foster care
“It made a difference for that one.” That’s the closing line in the tale of the little girl who walked along a beach as the waves threw dozens of starfish on the sand, and she returned many to the water. A puzzled bystander told her, “You can’t possibly keep up with all the waves,” and “What you’re doing makes no difference at all.” That bystander was, of course, mistaken.
The starfish is symbolic and a part of the logo of Foster Alumni Mentors (FAM), a nonprofit based in Mesa County. Founded by Kimberly Raff in 2017, its mission is to provide belonging and community to youth from the foster care system, who can feel like outsiders, alone and ashamed of their story. The statistics for the 20,000 U.S. youth who age out of foster care at 18 are alarming — with pregnancy, homelessness, risky behaviors, post-traumatic stress syndrome and even human trafficking topping the list of perils for individuals who don’t have a forever family.
Kimberly, who experienced foster care herself starting at age 14, knows firsthand how difficult life can be without the support of family, friends and community. “At FAM we make others feel loved and valued,” she says. “We’re about FAMily: Supporting, preparing, and building confidence in youth as they transition to adulthood. The compound impact is healing that extends for future generations.”
Kimberly describes working three jobs and struggling to survive in her young life, when one of her employers approached her and asked if she was interested in enrolling in college. It changed the course of her life. After attending Colorado Mesa University for 12 years, she was the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. She went on to work in child welfare and observed teens facing the same issues she had.
Through fundraising events, peer-to-peer mentoring and community mentoring, FAM is indeed making a difference. Its volunteers teach on topics like how to gain and maintain financial stability, apply for a loan, do taxes or apply for financial aid and scholarships for higher education. Instruction on meal planning and prep for healthy eating are a need, as are self-care and de-stressing strategies.
“Alpine Bank’s support has allowed us to provide homes, clothes, jobs, food, and so much more to so many who are achieving goals and moving ahead in life,” says Kimberly. “For a population that has felt discarded and forgotten, we are building up their belief in self by believing in them. Thank you for believing in us so we can do so.”
Learn more at fosteralumnimentors.org.
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