Gulf Coast Foster Bridge: How It All Began
The Gulf Coast Foster Bridge started the way many things like this do… someone discovered a need that wasn’t being met. Paul and Dawn Keeton said “yes” to adopting a sibling group of three in 2017. Those children joined the three biological kids they already had at the time. As they went down that road, they realized the need for much more support in our community. When a family courageously welcomes a scared and lonely child into their home, it can be extremely overwhelming. They immediately need clothing, shoes, beds, toys, strollers, diapers, formula, the list goes on and on.
Dawn also knew the importance of emotional support for foster families. Along with another couple, she started a foster/adopt group in Navarre/Gulf Breeze. Not long after that, Dawn felt led to start a closet for the foster community, filled with donated items to be given to any foster family in need. And to be honest, all foster families are in need. The money they get from the state doesn’t even come close to covering the lengthy list of things they need for these children.
Dawn wasn’t sure how to get started with her foster closet idea, or how she would pay for it, but God had big plans. At Vacation Bible School in July 2018, a friend introduced Dawn to a foster mom who had just received a new placement of an infant the night before. It was a quick reminder of the need for the closet, so Dawn shared her idea on Facebook that afternoon. Within an hour, Becky Slaymaker replied to the post and offered to pay the fee for a storage unit. The Gulf Coast Closet of Hope was born!
The next step was to fill the closet. Becky posted in local Facebook groups, asking if anyone wanted to donate items to a closet for foster families. Chrissie Kenaston replied to that post, saying she had volunteered in a similar way when she lived in Guam and wanted to help. Becky and Chrissie met for lunch and discovered they had the same special place in their hearts for the foster community. Becky introduced Chrissie to Dawn, and then there were three!
Ask and you shall receive, and they certainly did. The donations began pouring in for the Closet of Hope. Tub after tub was quickly filled with clothing and shoes. People donated cribs, toddler beds, strollers, swings and bouncers. Toys and books filled any empty space left in the storage unit. It was a humble beginning, but God does wonderful things when we are faithful to what He’s called us to do. Dawn, Becky and Chrissie followed the Lord’s guidance and began providing much-needed items for the foster families in this area. But the story doesn’t stop there!
A month later, two more ladies joined the team. Tanya Rodriguez and Lisa Veer are both foster/adopt moms who also felt God’s calling to look after the “least of these”. So, five women started meeting once a month to figure out what this ministry could become. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t stopping with a foster closet. This was supposed to be much bigger than that. The dream evolved into a full resource center, equipped with trained therapists to help foster children, monthly support groups, childcare, beds for emergency placements and of course, the closet. But how would any of this be possible?
The 5 fearless leaders knew that with God, anything is possible. No one gave up hope. Each of them stayed faithful in prayer and kept taking the next step to help this idea grow. At the beginning of 2019, God really started answering prayers. They realized it was time to grow the Closet of Hope into a full village and start actively taking steps to make their resource center dream come true. That’s when the Gulf Coast Foster Bridge was born.
A freezer-meal prep party was planned for the start of February, with the group having no idea if anyone would show up to help. The idea was to make several freezer meals to take to the foster families, so they’d have one less thing to worry about a couple of times a month. It was posted on Facebook, and God delivered. 10 women showed up to help make meals that day, and a few of them ended up on the board for the Gulf Coast Foster Bridge.
Several professionals in different fields have volunteered their time and talents for free, or at their cost, to help the Foster Bridge come to life. Dawn, Becky, Chrissie, Tanya and Lisa never gave up hope that God would fulfill His promises, and He is still delivering daily. They just continue to take the next step in faith, whatever that may be.
Currently, they are praying God brings them a physical location for the resource center and the funding for that. In the meantime, people are contacting the Gulf Coast Foster Bridge every day, wanting to donate items or volunteer their time. The community to wrap around the foster families already existed, the people just didn’t know where their help was needed. Dawn Keeton shed light on this need and our small, Gulf Coast community is saying “yes” to being the village every day.
Stay tuned to this blog and the Gulf Coast Foster Bridge Facebook and Instagram pages to see how this journey unfolds. God is doing some truly amazing things right here in our community.