Life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Through the good and the bad, our life is better with people who care—moms, dads, grandparents, siblings. Could you imagine not having their support?
For many parents in Rapid City, there isn’t someone for them to lean on. This is when Safe Families for Children steps in. This nationwide, nonprofit volunteer movement provides hope and support to families—keeping children safe, out of foster care, and reunifying families. Bethany Christian Services added the Safe Families services in 2014 and has been able to help nearly 120 children in three short years.
“I was immediately drawn to Safe Families because it is a ministry—a real-life, hands-on opportunity for the church to demonstrate the love of compassion of Jesus Christ, which is Bethany’s mission statement,” said Renee Eggebraaten, the Branch Director of Bethany Christian Services in Rapid City.
From incarceration and hospitalization to job loss and home transitions, Safe Families is there for parents to utilize. It is a free resource keeping their children safe while they navigate situations they come up against. Being there for others is one reason Katie Caldwell joined the team as the Safe Families for Children Coordinator at Bethany Christian Services.
“If I didn’t have the people in my network that I do, I could very well be in the same shoes as these people we are helping,” said Katie. “It can happen to anyone, and I want to help those people who do not have a network to have one.
The drive and determination the team carries is also found in the volunteers who open their homes to care for the children in need through Safe Families. Samantha Stuenzi and her husband became a volunteer in June of this year and is fulfilling something that has been heavy on Samantha’s heart for years.
Samantha’s parents divorced when she was young, but her mom had grandparents and extended family to support her throughout the hiccups in life. As Samantha got older, she began to realize not everyone has those same connections to lean on.”
“It’s always been on my heart, and I’ve said ‘eventually I want to do something–when the time is right’,” said Samantha. But, she began to realize there would never be a “perfect time” to begin. “So, I said ‘let’s do it!’”
After applying to be a volunteer and a screening process which includes references and a background check, Samantha and her husband received an in-home visit from Safe Families to go over their daily schedules and their preferences on the children they would potentially host. Within weeks, a five-year-old girl was placed with the Stuenzi family.
“It makes me happy seeing happy kids,” Samantha said with a smile. “Knowing and hoping that when all is said and done, they can be a family again and have the confidence and tools to live the life they want to live is why I am a volunteer through Safe Families.”
Interested in becoming a Safe Families for Children volunteer? Visit bethany.org or give Katie a call at 605-343-7196.
By Jenna Carda
On Christmas Day, Bethany Christian Services received a call from Dale, a single dad, who found himself in a desperate circumstance: he was depressed, unemployed, and homeless with his 6-year-old son, Connor. Dale had no support system or church family and realized that living out of his car was not safe for his son.
Bethany sent out the need, and a SFFC host family immediately responded saying they would take Connor. Connor stayed with this family until Dale secured a job and housing. What could have turned into a tragic crisis, developed into a transformative relationship. Dale said that SFFC completely changed his life, and he is now closer with God and his son than he ever was before. Even though it was hard to be apart from Connor, he was comforted to know his son was in a safe place. He said, “Safe Families for Children saved my life.”