• on January 21, 2021

Fostering Hope in Polk County

To say that Jeremy and Donna Wood’s lives revolve around children is quite the understatement. They have been married for eight years and have six children between them, ranging in age from 29 to 14. They also have eight grandchildren, five boys and three girls. Work also keeps them busy as Jeremy is the owner of SCNC Realty and is a broker/realtor licensed in North and South Carolina. Donna is the office manager at Baker Chiropractic in Tryon, NC, where she has worked for 22 years.

woman and man heads together smilingBut the Woods are not too busy, nor have they had their fill of taking care of children. Their involvement with foster care began a few years ago when the couple was attending an outreach church in Spartanburg, SC. During a toy drive they were spearheading, Jeremy and Donna met a family with several children who were living in a hotel. The mom had three older children, a nine-month old, and was expecting again. She’d also had breast cancer in both breasts. Jeremy and Donna were touched by their story and made sure this family had a wonderful holiday.

First experience with Foster Care.

Over the next few months, the Woods helped care for the nine-month old, while his mother was in the hospital. They even rented a storage unit and moved the family’s belongings during this hospital stay. The mother went on to deliver a healthy baby and successfully complete her cancer treatments. But their involvement with the Woods was not over.

Later that summer, Donna mentioned to the mom that the Wood family was going to the beach and that the mom’s older children were welcome to come long. The mom accepted and Jeremy and Donna took an extra car and three extra children on their vacation. Donna said, “We had a camper full of kids, tents full of kids. But what a blessing it was!”

A happy reunion.

In December of 2019, the Woods were in Walmart and heard a familiar voice. The little boy they’d kept for a few weeks was now almost four years old. He recognized Donna and came to her giggling with excitement. Donna says, “This family is why we began fostering. They were doing all they could to make ends meet. The father held down a job while the mother was sick. She was an excellent mom. The children were clean, well-fed, and emotionally sound. Sometimes families just need a little help.

Licensed and encouraging others.

From that informal beginning, Jeremy and Donna became licensed foster parents and have fostered 18 children in the last four years. They have recently had to scale back their ability to foster sibling sets to taking no more than two children under seven years old. Donna’s mother has some health challenges, and Donna is helping her siblings care for their mother. However, foster care is a family affair for the Woods. Donna’s mom told her, “Don’t you stop doing what you do for those children because of me.” The Woods are also considering enlarging their family through adoption.

Additionally, the Woods encourage churches to become involved in foster care as they feel there is no better place for a church to be involved in the community than through foster care. Donna says, “If one family from each church would become licensed, what a difference that would make. But they don’t even have to become licensed. There’s something for everyone to do to care for children in foster care.”

Donna and Jeremy attend Columbus Baptist Church but had only been there a brief time when a need arose they felt the church could help with. Jeremy’s realty office had an office listed whose owner had allowed some women in the county to store clothing, shoes, baby items, and more for children in foster care. Unfortunately, there was little publicity about the store and it was rarely used.

Hope Chest is born.

When it came time for the items to be moved, Donna and Jeremy approached their pastor at Columbus Baptist to see if there was space at the church that could be used. Thankfully, the pastor said yes and the Hope Chest was born. As the COVID quarantine began, the Woods used that time to sort and organize all the goods in the closet. They then began distributing clothing to families in need in Polk County. They held a very successful formula and diaper drive on Mother’s Day last year. And since opening, they’ve served more than 20 families, including one who lost their apartment and all their belongings in a fire.

room with bins, toys, and clothes

room with bins and toys for foster care families

Everyone can do something.

closet with bins and hangers of clothesWhile Donna knows that not everyone is able to join this journey as a foster parent, she also strongly believes that everyone can do something. “You can offer a meal to a foster family, especially in this time when many are doing home school or virtual learning. You don’t even have to tell them. You can just order a pizza to be delivered to their home, because who doesn’t like pizza?” Donna said. Other ideas include having your church offer a parents’ night out, or make a phone call or send a card to say thanks for the sacrifices made by the foster family.

Foster families are doing hard work and they need the support of their communities. Donna, Jeremy, and their church are great examples of how to help families on both sides of the foster care equation. Your church, civic club, or even a group of friends can become a Fostering Community. Contact Angela Bollo, Fostering Communities Coordinator, at abollo@crossnore.org for more information.