“Did you see her smile?” Andrew Simkins, a volunteer at the Room at the Table, asked as Stacy Engle’s foster daughter picked out items. Together, they filled multiple bags with a wide variety of items.
Room at the Table is a ministry for foster and adoptive families in Kosciusko County, Ind. (or those fostering children from the county). Similar to a traditional clothes closet ministry, Room at the Table is a small store that offers children’s clothing, diapers, wipes, toys, and other items at no charge.
“Foster care is my passion,” said Janice Workman describing her nearly 30 years of caring for children. While not everyone is called to foster, she said, “everybody is able to do something.”
When families receive a phone call to welcome a new child into their home, things move quickly and often the child is in their home within a few hours. Janice found it difficult to find things she needed on short notice. As a result, in July 2019, she, Joye Andrew, and Jennifer Hotchkins spearheaded the development of Room at the Table at the Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church (Kip Cone, lead pastor).
“It’s pretty exciting to see,” she noted. Items are donated year-round, so it is usually full of supplies, but if there is a specific item they need they put the call out. “If we post something we need, we get it,” Janice said. Any material donated should look or be new: “We want [the kids] to look loved and cared for,” she said.
Many people in the community give donations to Room at the Table. Janice said, “This is a way they can stay involved.” Some donated items have the words “Love Nana” stitched into them. “It almost gives it a special little hug,” she said.
Andrew Simkins and his wife, Nancy, stood with Janice near the record books in early April, waiting for foster parents to arrive. They volunteer their time by helping individuals find the items they need, recording the items taken, bagging and carring the items to the customers’ cars.
Shortly after 2 p.m. Stacey Engle walked in. She went from the clothes to the toiletries to the books, picking up a variety of items, including Play-Doh, for her four foster children. “I’m so glad you guys had Play-Doh because I was going to go get some from the store,” she said. She grabbed one container for each child.
“I love that there’s this resource for foster families. We did not have anything for a little boy when he was placed with us,” Engle said. She was able to get a swing, a playmat, and diapers from the closet for the boy. She was grateful Room at the table saved them from the expenses of those items. The only limitations set on items are for diapers and pull-ups; families can get only one large package or two small packages per child. “We always pick up diapers and wipes” at the store for Room at the Table, Nancy noted.
COVID-19 did not shut them down, Janice said. People were not allowed into the closet for several months during the pandemic; however, families could email their needs and pick up their items outside. They also did not accept any gently used clothing for several months. The closet opened back up in the fall of 2020 and is now running at full capacity.
While hosted by the Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church, Room at the Table is part of a local coalition of churches that are involved in supporting different aspects of foster care. A local Baptist church recently cleaned and repaired several bicycles that were given out. Another large congregation gave $1,000 to purchase needed items, while another partnered with a food bank to provide a huge supply of over-the-counter medications. Handmade quilts for babies and older children have been supplied by the ladies in yet another church.
It is a “good picture of the body of Christ,” Janice said.
Pray for Room at the Table as they work to be the hands and feet of Jesus through supporting foster families. Send Janice an encouraging note here.
–By Carolina Keegan