When teenage siblings Ali and Jordan Gutha hear stories of children in foster care, they can relate. The pair and their younger siblings — 11-year-old Jakob, 10-year-old Alyssa, and 8-year-old Colin — were all foster kids before being adopted by Angel and Karl Gutha.
That’s why they want to help other kids through the process.
With guidance from their parents, the siblings are founding a nonprofit organization to help kids new to the foster system and the adults who are supporting them.
The HOPE Foundation, an acronym for Helpful Opportunities for People Everywhere, is based on the idea of cultivating opportunities as opposed to giving handouts.
“It gives people a chance to do it themselves rather than having it done for them,” Jordan explained.
“Opportunities build character,” added Angel.
They’ll kick off fundraising efforts this weekend with a dunk tank at the Marine & Auto Custom Interiors expo.
“We’ve always seen the business as a stepping stone for our kids,” said Angel. “No matter what direction that is, our business is there to support them. And what better time to help them get their feet on the ground with their nonprofit than to give them a spot at this event?”
The kids have been front and center in planning the organization, from crafting the mission to drawing a logo to presenting the idea to review boards.
Central to their idea is a foster care “closet,” a place where kids new to foster care can stock up on supplies.
“For the kids who get pulled out of their home on a Tuesday at 2 a.m. in the summer, resources are limited,” Angel said. “This would be a brick and mortar facility where someone gets a referral and they can go in and go shopping.
“It isn’t someone picking out what they think you or your children might need or want. It’s an opportunity for these children to make some decisions and own what they have. For a little kid it could be a teddy bear or a book. Five pairs of pants, shirts. The key point is that the kids are picking things out themselves.”
The center could also serve as a hub, helping connect kids to agencies and resources that can help them. And it would be a place for kids new to foster care to connect with kids who have experience in the system, or talk to adults who are considering opening their home to foster children.
Ali said being involved in planning for the organization made her feel helpful
“There’s not a closet or a big organization here,” she said. “And there are a lot of kids in foster care. Now I’m seeing it from a different view than if I were in foster care.”
They’re hoping to use their experience in foster care to improve that of others.
“In the end it turned out pretty fine, but the process of it was hard and difficult to cooperate with,” said Jordan. “I felt like I was pushed aside.”
“When you’re a kid you see adults and other children in different ways,” said Ali. “An adult is someone to guide you. A kid is a friend and someone you can talk to. We had a lot of adults around us, but no kids.”
Added Angel, “I’ll never forget Jacob told me he thought they were the only ones going through it. A big thing they’ll be doing is showing these kids that they’re not alone.”
If you go
“The biggest thing is to draw people to the event to come and meet the kids and talk to them. If you’re a prospective foster parents, or already foster parents or if you just want to help by making a donation.” — Angel Gutha.
What: HOPE Foundation dunk tank fundraiser at the Marine & Auto Custom Interiors Boat and Vehicle Expo.
When: Sept. 13, noon to 6 p.m.; Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sept. 15, noon to 6 p.m.
Where: Half mile east of Menards on Highway 8 in St. Croix Falls.
Details: Event is free and will include a kids bouncy zone.