Black Hills Woman Magazine | The Girl Gives Back - Kristen Andrews?

Kristen Andrews
The Girl Gives Back

Briefly describe the organization you volunteer for and your role in the foundation.
I am a Safe Families for Children volunteer, which is a program run through Bethany Christian Services. The focus of Safe Families is to give children a safe place to stay while their parents are working to repair various aspects of their lives. The placements are voluntary on all parts and the hope is to help out families before things get to the point of Foster care, or even to just give families a helping hand when needed the most.

Tell us something about the journey that led you to the organization.
I had been feeling God telling me for months that I was supposed to do something more with my life and that the fulfillment I was seeking would not come from simply being a parent or selling real estate. I didn’t know what that “missing piece” looked like though, until one Sunday, in August of 2014 when I was sitting in church with my 2 children, who were ages 11 and 13, and the pastor was telling the story of the Good Samaritan. In the story, many people passed a man that had been badly beaten and left for dead by the side of the road but a Samaritan stopped, got off his donkey and helped the man. After telling this story, my pastor mentioned Safe Families, which was brand new at the time, and their need for volunteers. In his direct and inspiring style, he looked out to all of us and said, “You need to get off of your donkeys.” I looked at my kids and thought, “not only is this something I can do, this is something we can all do together.” I went to the lobby after church and signed up right then and there.

What motivates you to stay involved?
Seeing how much all of these kids truly need me is what keeps me going. I have had some really tough placements where the kids didn’t have even their basic needs being met. Things like clean clothes that fit, medication for eczema, diaper rash ointment, diapers, blankets, etc. After a few days with me, I can usually get them feeling so much better and all it takes is love and patience. I have had babies recognize me and want to be held after just a few hours because I think they can truly sense that they are safe and loved when they are with me, and I pray that feeling carries them through some of the tough times they will likely face in their futures. I have also seen many success stories evolve from the program. Parents getting back on their feet, finding new jobs, securing housing, etc., things they couldn’t do while also taking care of their kids full time.

Describe one of your favorite moments you’ve experienced while volunteering.
I have had so many amazing moments that it’s impossible to just pick one. I have labeled them “God Moments,” because I truly believe that they are the times when God is speaking to me and saying, “see, I told you this would all be worth it!” My children have been vital to my success with all of the various placements in the past 2 years. I have housed 10 children, in some capacity, since getting involved in Safe Families. That means we have all had to juggle and sacrifice and step up, even when it’s been really hard to do so! Seeing my kids bond and help me take care of other children that need us is the best thing in the world. They are now 14 and 12 and what this program has taught them is something that I know I never could have on my own. Each moment they hold a baby or help with baths or change a diaper or get down on the floor and play with a child is my favorite moment. Based on different circumstances from their pasts, these children often respond more to my kids then to me. I think we make a great team and I love doing this with them!

Why do you believe it is important to volunteer?
I believe that on some level all of us want to help others and that God created us to do so. That fulfillment that I was missing in my life is no longer an empty place. It is full with the knowledge that I’m making a difference, no matter how small, in the lives of others. I don’t know where a lot of these children end up after they leave my care, but I do know that while they were with me, they were loved and cared for and safe. And, that parents who struggle, as we all do, can take some comfort in knowing that there is help out there when they need it. We are all here to help each other up and support each other, as well as to show God’s love. Safe Families gives me the opportunity to spread that love to others, and I can’t think of a better way to live my life! BHW

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