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Bulloch citizens take up Deal's call for service
Volunteers lend a hand to help foster families, children
Christie Long folds and sorts clothes for Fostering Families, Bulloch Saturday. About 70 volunteers showed up to sort clothes, paint, and organize at the new facility. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      The 70 volunteers who painted, made repairs, cleaned up, sorted clothing and did various other tasks for Fostering Families Bulloch on Saturday morning were, in a way, taking part in Gov. Nathan Deal's inauguration.
      "With a Servant's Heart, A Day of Service," was coordinated by his staff to kick off the inauguration, which culminates Monday, when Deal takes the oath of office. The Statesboro project was one of 35 around the state where volunteers pitched in to help charities, shelters, missions and environmental agencies. The southern half of the state had relatively few sites, with the next nearest being the America's Second Harvest food distribution center in Savannah.
      But in Statesboro, the Day of Service coincided neatly with efforts just getting off the ground to help foster children.  About six months back, Chris and Kim Yaughn checked into becoming foster parents. It wasn't that they didn't have children of their own - they have three, ages 2-7 - but the Yaughns felt called to share with kids who are temporarily or permanently homeless.
      Attending an orientation put on by the Department of Family and Children Services, the Yaughns learned that becoming foster parents takes time, and also that Bulloch County has very few foster families. Only about nine families were certified and actively keeping children, while about 40 Bulloch County children are typically in foster care at a time, according to Chris Yaughn.
      "God led us into it," said Yaughn, who now sees his role as coordinating efforts to meet the needs of Bulloch County foster children in general. "There were nine open homes, we only had two case workers, and the county didn't have the budget to train and certify the families that were willing to help."
      As the owner of a small business, Yaughn Countertops, he has learned to work through problems and call on people for help, he said. Finding no organization in the county dedicated to communicating the needs of foster children to the community, the Yaughns launched Fostering Families Bulloch. It began with emails to a couple hundred people on his business contact list.
      "We started calling people that we knew...," Yaughn said, "and invariably people would say, ‘Wow, what can we do?'"
      One of the first needs they addressed was supplying emergency clothing to children in foster care.
      "A lot of times these kids may come into care into the middle of the night with what they're wearing, so they may need clothes to go to school for the next few days," Yaughn explained.
      Giving the effort a kick start, the Redding family donated the use of the old NAPA store building on Elm Street to serve as the Fostering Families clothing closet and headquarters.
      Many other people donated clothing. Donations of materials and labor for building improvements started coming in.   Some Yaughn requested. Others just showed up. Will Self, who owns Action Signs, emailed one day recently with the news "the sign is taken care of," Yaughn reports, and there's now a Fostering Families Bulloch logo painted on the building's front glass.
      Meanwhile, Kim Brannen, a Sea Island Bank senior vice president who serves on the Georgia Commission for Service and Volunteerism, received a call a few weeks ago. Deal was planning his Day of Service, and the commission wanted to be involved in a project in Statesboro. Brannen and her husband had met Yaughn a few months earlier.
      "We immediately saw that this man had such a heart for needy children," Brannen said.
      So the two currents converged Saturday at the building on Elm Street. Volunteers were assigned to 15 different tasks, from folding clothes and assembling care kits to cleaning out the garage, painting and installing electrical outlets.
      After discussing the project with Yaughn, Jamey Cartee of St. Andrews Builders called on other associates in the construction trades who agreed to donate work both at the Fostering Families headquarters and to paint and decorate the foster family room at the DFCS office, where the project actually started three weeks earlier.
      "I've asked some of the trim carpenters and sheetrock guys, the painters, and every one of those guys has stepped up and said, ‘I want to help,' Really all I've done is try to coordinate and tell them what we need, and they've been there," Cartee said.
       Contractor David Padgett and two employees were going to remove a wall at the Fostering Families HQ before painting Saturday. Several other builders and supply companies also contributed.
      The clothes sorting and folding involved volunteers from the Statesboro Service League and from churches and schools.
      One volunteer with a special tie to the wider Day of Service is Kay Clark, first cousin of Gov.-elect Nathan Deal. She, her husband Denny, their daughter Meredith and another first cousin, Thelma Kilpatrick, prepared about 30 immediate care kits for delivery to the Fostering Families building before driving to Atlanta on Saturday for the start of the inaugural festivities. The kits include toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by a local dentist, soap and other hygiene items and, for young children, coloring books and crayons.
      "It makes your heart feel good," said Clark, who had not heard of Fostering Families Bulloch before the project.
      Since the Yaughns first checked, Bulloch County DFCS has received some money to provide training for foster parents, but out of 25 who attended an orientation, only three families answered an invitation to go through the training, he reports. Certification can take four to six months. The Yaughns have yet to complete their certification, but he says that even if they never have foster children in their home, they have found a way to serve.
      "There's still a need for more families, and there's also a need just for people to be open to needs as they come up, if a kid needs a prom dress or a kid needs a clarinet," Yaughn said. "There's only 40 kids and there's 70,000 people in Bulloch County, almost, and to think that we can't take care of those 40 children is just crazy. Of course we can."
      The clarinet thing really happened. After a caseworker reporter that a child in foster care wanted to play in her school band and needed a clarinet, Yaughn emailed 10 people, and two clarinets were offered.

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