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OCJ Kids: Connecting, Creating, and Cultivating Communities with Foster Care

OCJ Kids: Connecting, Creating, and Cultivating Communities with Foster Care

When Chief Growth Officer Michael Loban and Vice President of Client Success Stacey Shiring attended a Michael Bernoff Training in Scottsdale, Arizona, they were each given $40 and instructions to shop at Target for school backpack items. The backpacks would go to a local organization, OCJ Kids, which connects the faith and business communities with children in foster care. 

“Michael and I listened to one of the women speak about her foster kids and it was heartbreaking to hear what they went through,” Shiring said. “She told us that for most foster kids, their backpack is their only piece of luggage—and some just have trash bags. Many times, her kids got moved [from one home to another]—and sometimes without notice. They don’t always get to go back to where their things were, so they start to carry them on themselves (or in a backpack) so they don’t lose anything.”

Purchasing the items for foster children in need struck Loban and Shiring—both wanted to do something beyond the initial $40. Being touched by the stories they heard, and the efforts of OCJ Kids, Loban and Shiring brought their desire to help OCJ Kids to the InfoTrust Foundation. 

Co-Founder and Director of Operations Tamara Webb shares a bit more about the organization and why OCJ Kids does what it does. 

Q: For someone who knows nothing about OCJ Kids, please tell us about the organization. 

A: OCJ Kids is a locally-based, non-profit located in Phoenix, Arizona. Our primary focus is connecting the faith and business communities with children in foster care. Arizona currently has approximately 14,000 children in foster care. Many of those children do not live with a foster family, but in congregate care (a group home). Our focus is to provide services and resources to those children living in the group homes and to provide resources to the Department of Child Safety that are not within the budgets. OCJ Kids has been working with children in foster care since 2006.  

Q: What is your vision and hope for OCJ Kids? 

A: Our mission is to equip foster and at-risk children and youth with tools, resources, and healthy relationships to succeed and excel in every area of life. Our vision is to connect foster and at-risk youth with caring communities for support and assistance; to create a foundation of family for children and youth who have none; and to cultivate foster and at-risk children and youth with purpose, direction, hope, and a brighter future.

Q: What makes OCJ Kids unique?

A: OCJ Kids is very relationship focused. During our big events, we rally volunteers who are able to connect and interact with the children on a personal level. We want to always make sure that the children leave an event knowing they are part of a much larger community, that they are loved, and most importantly that they are seen. From our One Bright Star Christmas bowling party with several hundred children to our Cowboy Camp with 10 teens, we want them to have the opportunity to create amazing memories and begin to heal from the trauma of the world they have known.

Q: What is something about OCJ Kids that we may not know about?

A: Our staff of five full-time and two part-time employees oversees 17 projects and programs throughout the year. We have an amazing team of volunteers who assist us with big events, preparation of our resources, volunteering the group homes, and collecting supplies. In our most recent fiscal year, OCJ Kids had more than 10,000 points of impact with Arizona foster children.

Q: What are some of OCJ Kids’ areas of focus? 

A: Providing resources to foster children and teens, including hygiene, clothing, emergency food, etc.; providing tools for volunteers to effectively interact with the children through trauma informed care; and wrapping around the Department of Child Safety case aides to provide resources for those children they serve.

Q: Tell us about how InfoTrust’s donation will help your mission at OCJ Kids. Where will it be going and who will it help?

A: The InfoTrust donation will provide backpacks and school supplies to children who enter the foster care system during the upcoming months. In August, OCJ Kids provided 500 backpacks and supplies to children and teens preparing to start school. In total we have distributed close to 800 backpacks for this current school year. As the weeks progress, new children and teens will enter foster care with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. As they settle into a foster home, group home, or other situation we will have backpacks filled with supplies so that they can start school again.

Q: Your website says “their future is now.” What does that mean to you?

A: We have the opportunity to intersect these children at one of the most vulnerable times in their young lives. By giving them hope, promise, love, and healing we are indeed changing the course of their lives and creating a healthy future for them.

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