Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura and Samantha Kopec.
Hi Laura and Samantha, we’d love for you to start by introducing your nonprofit:
Growing up in an Italian household, food was always a symbol of love. My grandparents fed us constantly. They cooked and we ate. Every holiday, celebration, event was centered around the meal. Family ate together. We always sat at the table, prayed, and talked. Everyone shared their high points and low points of the day. We listened to each other and supported one another while enjoying a meal.
These two traditions are missing in so many homes today. One way we can improve the foster care system is by helping the foster families get back to the traditions of family mealtime. This mission of Feeding the Fosters alleviates some of the financial burdens on the household and provides more quality time for adults to spend with the children, instead of grocery shopping and daily meal preparation. Having a hot, nutritious supper delivered at mealtime is a welcomed gift to any family. It also provides the gift of time spent together in food and fellowship; Time to communicate and share with each other.
My sister and I began by cooking for the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch cottages weekly over the summer. The homemade meals such a baked ziti, chicken and potatoes, and vegetable quiche were delivered hot at supper time and the family could relax and enjoy it together.
Last summer we decided to invite our local friends to help us with the mission of Feeding the Fosters. We created a Facebook page and many people signed up to cook and provide a meal; more surprisingly, many foster families asked if they could be included in getting a dinner. In April 2019 we became a not-for-profit. We are currently serving over 35 foster families for a total of up to 225 individual meals per night. We are feeding all age groups from babies to grandparents. This ongoing mission has become more than serving food but offering fellowship and prayers to the foster families as well. Many businesses, restaurants, and even cleaning services have contacted us to help become involved in supporting foster families. Our goal is to continue adding at least one foster family per month and to grow our volunteers; Currently, we have about 2100 followers.
The outpouring and generosity of support have been overwhelming and very much appreciated. The foster children have enjoyed the variety of different foods and their caretakers are grateful for the extra time they can dedicate to the kids, without worrying about preparing a meal.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Fundraising is always a struggle and we have been creative with grant writing, selling tee shirts, hosting spirit days at local restaurants and we are currently creating a cookbook. Also, finding volunteers to cook and deliver meals is a challenge, especially during a global pandemic. We would like to continue to spread and grow the mission to serve more foster families but we need the help of the community. One way we appeal to teenage volunteers is by offering volunteer hours for National Honor Society, BrightFutures, etc. We also collect food surplus from local businesses and can offer that to volunteers who want the groceries to prepare a meal.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about you personally and what you’re currently focused on?
Samantha is 17 years old. She recently graduated from the Tarpon Springs Leadership Conservatory for the Arts and is a freshman attending the University of Miami. She plays both clarinet and piano and will be pursuing a major in Music Industries with a minor in Business Law. Sam is a co-founder of Feeding the Fosters, plans events, fundraises by writing grants, and manages our website and social media. She was awarded the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for her work in the community with Feeding the Fosters and plans to start a branch of this organization in the Miami area. She says that it is in the giving that she receives and that her purpose is to make others smile.
Laura is 16 years old. She attends Palm Harbor University High School in the IB program as a junior. She aspires to study law and foreign policy in college and is currently serving on the Pinellas County Youth Advisory Committee. She has many academic and musical awards (plays piano and bassoon) and accolades. Laura enjoys working with autistic children and serving the foster community. She has been recognized with the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award and will continue to advocate for the foster community.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Sam said, “While I am humbled by the outpouring of support generated, I truly believe the person who gained the most from this was me. Founding this nonprofit has taught me that I can use my time, talents, and education to make a positive change in the world. I am blessed to see the difference Feeding the Fosters Inc. is making in the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community. I have learned so much about the broken foster system and plan to spread this mission at the University of Miami where I will be studying business in the fall. My heart is filled knowing I can do a small part to change the lives of others, and I plan to continue serving the public by advocating for positive changes in the foster system in the future.”
- Website: www.feedingthefostersinc.com
- Instagram: feedingthefostersinc
- Facebook: @ feeding the fosters inc nonprofit
- Email: email@example.com