Whitney and I first met in high school youth group. She was a few years ahead of me, but I remember watching her and seeing the fire she had inside of her for the things of the Lord, for the lost, and the hurting. We were just acquaintances but she was one of those people that make an impact on your life without saying a word.
Fast forward 13 years later. We connected through social media, and I found out that she was running a non-profit, City Without Orphans, to bring awareness about fostering and to educate families who are considering foster care and adoption, (and so much more, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
Shortly after becoming a Maskcara Independent Artist, Whitney reached out and asked if I did event makeup. She and her husband, co-owner of City Without Orphans, were going to be recording their classes for those considering Fostering or Adoption to make the information more easily accessible. As a mom, I could see how great a need there would be for busy parents who would like to attend the class but don’t have the time in their schedule to make it to an in-person class. Participating in the making of these videos, in even the smallest way, gave me so much joy. Through doing her makeup, I was able to reconnect in person with Whitney and hear about their own adoption story and how she got started with City Without Orphans.
When Whitney was around 15 years old she volunteered with her youth group at an emergency shelter for foster youth. They were doing a pizza and craft night for the children at the center and she was shocked an saddened by their brokeness. It broke her heart that they were in limbo, without a home to call their own. That night when she had to peel a crying five year old little girl off of her leg she vowed to serve God through loving and helping kids in these situations. In 2010 she was working at a foster care agency and seeing the many needs of kids and families in foster care. She began to dream about what it would be like to see a bridge built between governmanet, churches, businesses and families to leverage existing resources for these kids so desperately in need. The dream began to grow in her to start a non-profit, which she believed would create a community that would be known for serving our most vulnerable children.
She knew she wanted to see something done about all the gaps in the system and the lack of collaboration in our community in meeting these needs. Initially, she didn’t think that she wanted to start a non-profit. She told me, “But that feeling didn’t go away. And eventually I got the biggest push when I was laid-off from my job working at the foster care agency. That was the season where I really wrestled with if I could do this. I had a social work degree, not a business one. But I was blessed to have people around me in my family and some friends that did have experience in business and non-profit development who coached me in where to start. They helped me create a strategic plan, pitch it to leaders in the community, and then eventually we incorporated as a 501c3.”
When I asked her, besides the business knowledge, if there were any personal hurdles she had to overcome, she told me, “I Felt so young and unqualified, but I knew that my experiences in my early 20’s and the call from God had set me up to step out in faith and start this organization because no one was meeting these needs. If you see a need, and you have the courage to take a risk- God will meet you there!” So I asked her where she gained the courage to step out and turn this dream into reality. “I have always been told by my mentors and pastors that ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.’ I think remembering that motto that was spoken over me, in addition to not letting people judge you for being young, really did help me take a huge leap of faith,” she told me.
It’s interesting to me those things that are planted in us somewhere along our journey that we end up building upon to do the hard things. Whitney shared with me that it hasn’t been easy. When they first started the organization they thought that partnership and funding would come easier. But she realized that institutions don’t change on a dime. City Without Orphans has learned to adapt and adjust and work with who they are able to connect with year by year. Some of their biggest hurdles in continuing with their mission have been in keeping on-going funding streams. They rely on monthly support, one-time donations, fundraisers, and grants. In spite of the great effort and hours of fundraising to keep afloat, seeing the growth of their reach to more and more families and children every year has continuously encouraged them. Hearing the stories of how families and communities have changed through filling these gaps helps them maintain their passion to keep going. Whitney tells me that more families are fostering and adopting, serving youth, and supporting other families post-placement than they were 10 years ago. That is work in the right direction! There is still so much more to be done. I am grateful to her and her family for being a beacon in our community, to raise awareness and serve selflessly until we are truly a city without orphans.
“If you see a need, and you have the courage to take a risk – God will meet you there!”