• Aug 06 2016

    More kids pulled from homes in Hillsborough than anywhere else in Florida

    by Christopher O’Donnell - Times Staff Writer

    The children are taken from their homes because parents fight or use drugs, or because of child abuse, neglect and mental illness. Others are given away by parents who admit defeat at handling teenagers.

    These sad tales occur more in Hillsborough County than anywhere else in Florida.

    In four of the past six years, the county has led the state in the number of children plucked from their parents or guardians.

    That peaked in the 2016 fiscal year when investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office removed 1,672 children, the highest number in more than 10 years. That’s almost 450 more than Miami-Dade County, home to roughly 1.3 million more people than Hillsborough.

    For some, the numbers suggest that the county at times removes children unnecessarily. Others speculate that Hillsborough’s large low-income population, scattered over urban and rural areas, makes it difficult to help with social services.

    Whatever the reason, the result is an overburdened child welfare system.

    Almost 40 children ended up sleeping in offices and other make-do accommodations over a three-month period this spring and summer because state contractor Eckerd Kids could not place them in foster homes.

    And only 55 percent of the roughly 3,300 children in the state’s care in Hillsborough are assigned a guardian ad litem because there simply aren’t enough volunteers. Elsewhere in Florida, 80 percent of children in care are assigned a guardian.

    That can often mean Hillsborough children wait longer for counseling or medication, said Tabitha Lambert, circuit director for the 13th Circuit guardian ad litem program.

    It can also mean a longer spell in the child welfare system before reunification with family or a permanent adoption.

    “There’s not enough foster homes,” Lambert said. “There’s not enough resources to care for the increasing number of kids that come into the system.”

    • • •

    New reports of children removed because of abuse and neglect arrive every day at the Edgecomb Courthouse on Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa.

    Monday’s docket in a small courtroom on the third floor brought six new cases, each awaiting a shelter hearing. All six reports involved either domestic violence or drug abuse.

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa approved removal in them all.

    In most counties, reports from the Florida Abuse Hotline of children at risk are investigated by staff of the care agency contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

    Hillsborough is one of only six counties where investigations are handled by the local sheriff’s office. The others are Broward, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, and Seminole.

    Of those, all but Seminole removed children at a rate higher than the state average in the 2016 fiscal year. Hills­borough was the highest of those: On average, children were taken from homes in 14 of every 100 investigations. Statewide, the rate was 8 in 100.

    Hillsborough’s Child Protective Investigations Division includes 75 investigators. They are not sworn deputies but take a 12-week training course and then additional on-the-job training to get certified by DCF.

    Capt. Jim Bradford, deputy division commander, agrees that the county’s removal numbers are high but said only children in danger are removed.

    He points to how seldom judges deny removals as proof his staff is getting it right.

    In 4,173 cases since 2011, only 66 times has a judge told investigators they got it wrong. Only one removal out of 458 this calendar year was reversed.

    “The last thing the Sheriff’s Office wants to do is to remove a child from his family,” Bradford said. “We go to great pains to keep that family intact.”

    Juvenile dependency attorneys who represent parents note shades of gray.

    There’s no question that removal is the right action in most cases, said Tampa lawyer David A. Dee. But there are borderline cases where children could have remained in the home with regular monitoring and additional social services.

    The cases that cause him the most heartache are when single parents, usually mothers, are jailed for crimes not directly related to parenting, like driving with a suspended license. The state takes custody of the children unless they have relatives or friends who can take them.

    In the poorest neighborhoods, some parents have no relatives or friends willing to take a child. Even the willing will not be given the child if any adult in the home has a criminal record.

    “Dependency court is an economic court; most of the people have no money,” Dee said.

    Tampa lawyer Norman Palumbo, whose clients include parents and grandparents, said the state faces a balancing act between keeping families intact and keeping children safe.

    Right now, the emphasis leans more to keeping children safe, he said, but that means some children are unnecessarily taken away from their home, their parents and their possessions .

    Once in the care of the state, they may be there for a while.

    Eckerd Kids sets a goal of getting 60 percent of children returned to their families or placed permanently with foster parents within one year of removal.

    Over a 12-month period ending in June, it failed to meet that goal even once and in May and June also failed to meet the state target of permanently placing 40.5 percent of children within one year.

    “I think they’re playing safe. I don’t think they realize the harm they’re doing to the kids,” Palumbo said. “Even when you err on the side of caution, it’s still an error.”

    • • •

    As Florida’s fourth most populous county, Hillsborough is always likely to be among the counties with the highest foster child population.

    But the county has long been regarded as an outlier by child welfare professionals because the number of removals was disproportionately high, said Don Dixon, who spent 24 years working for DCF and rose to be district administrator.

    Economics may be a factor. More than 23 percent of children in Hillsborough live in poverty, according to U.S. Census estimates. And Hillsborough County ranked 98th out of the nation’s 100 largest counties when it came to income mobility for poor families, a 2015 Harvard University study found.

    Children of all races end up in foster care in Hillsborough. The majority this year came from east Tampa and an area west of the University of South Florida, according to reports from the Child Protective Investigations Division. But removals also occurred in rural and suburban areas such as parts of Brandon and Progress Village.

    Plenty of tax dollars are spent to prevent children from meeting that fate, including about $3.22 million for Healthy Families, a program to educate and work with pregnant and new mothers for up to five years.

    But participation is voluntary, and many families shy away from allowing support workers into their homes.

    Hillsborough’s size and population also makes it a challenge to reach every parent.

    Hospitals deliver about 17,000 children each year in the county, more babies than are born in some states.

    “Hillsborough County is a complex county,” said Jane Murphy, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County. “We’re urban; we’re rural; we’re suburban and we have all the issues that come with that.”

    Dixon, the former DCF administrator, said the vast majority of removals made during his time at the agency protected at-risk children.

    His best theory is that the removals are a consequence of bad behaviors, traits and choices among parents.

    The county has ranked among the worse for the number of domestic violence arrests, drunken drivers, substance abuse, and even the number of people who smoke, he said.

    “My speculative conclusion: Unhealthy communities produce unhealthy results,” Dixon said.

  • Feb 11 2016

    Kiermaier to battle 2-pound steak for charity

    by Bridget Roberston

    By Bill Chastain / | @wwchastain | February 3rd, 2016
    ST. PETERSBURG -- Babe Ruth once devoured between a dozen and 18 hot dogs at a train station during an eating binge before blacking out.

    The story is as much a part of the Ruth legend as his called-shot homer in the 1932 World Series. Extremes were the norm for Ruth.

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier will take on a Ruthian-like challenge Thursday night when he attempts to devour a 35-ounce smoked ribeye at Smokey Bones in Clearwater, Fla. The event will raise money for the Friends of Joshua House Foundation, which is a safe haven for abused, abandoned and neglected children, offering a therapeutic residential group care program that provides a protected, nurturing, family-like environment for children ages 6-17.

    While the challenge sounds like something the Bambino might do, the Gold Glove Award winner sounded more like Roberto Duran heading into the event: "No mas."

    "Oh, no, no, no, let's not get this twisted," Kiermaier said. "There's no way I'm going to be able to finish this steak. I've already accepted that. I'm going to do my best to eat what I can, but there's a zero percent chance of me eating 35 ounces of a steak."

    The idea of the lean Kiermaier taking down such a meal brings to mind a python whose belly is swelling with a recently digested animal. That visual is not about to happen, though.

    "I'm trying to stay in shape," Kiermaier said. "I want to steal some bases this year. I don't need this little food baby showing in my stomach."

    He chuckled.

    "So, like I said, I'm going to eat what I can," Kiermaier said. "But I'm not going to get to a point where I'm uncomfortable or shoving food down my throat. But I guess I'm going to give it my best shot, and I guess we'll just see how I feel tomorrow when I get there."

    Kiermaier noted that he's not about to turn into Adam Richman of "Man vs. Food."

    "No, I think that guy has a little more of reputation to finish things," Kiermaier said. "Finish his food. That's what he gets paid for.

    "For me, this is for a good cause, and I'm just trying to do my part and eat as much food as I can. It's a pretty easy concept. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to see what the turnout's going to be like. I don't know if I'm going to have people rooting me on like 'Man vs. Food' or not. But we'll see what happens. I know I can not eat 35 ounces of steak."

    Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

  • Nov 02 2015

    Junior League enlists Girl Power to mentor troubled kids

    by Bridget Roberston

    By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff 
    Published: November 1, 2015   |   Updated: November 1, 2015 at 01:42 PM

    LUTZ — Chavon moved 30 times by the time she turned 13, giving her bragging rights of a sort among the children who live at the Joshua House.

    The cost she paid for this time in and out of foster care was high — anger management issues and struggles in school. But now 16, Chavon turned her life around during the three years she has lived at the home for abused, neglected and abandoned children from the Tampa area.

    One reason is the mentoring she gets from a group of 21 women who have taken the girls at Joshua House under their wing. A committee formed by the civic association Junior League of Tampa, they call themselves “Girl Power.”

    They encourage progress in reading and writing, offer career advice, and teach lessons many girls would get from a mother, sister and grandmother — things like feminine hygiene, cooking and sewing, balancing a checkbook.

    “It’s the best thing to happen to me here; I love when they come,” said Chavon. At the request of Chavon and the Joshua House, the Tribune is not using her last name. “They teach me things I don’t learn anywhere else and they’re role models who believe in me.”

    The Joshua House offers onsite services such as tutoring and professional counseling. Girl Power is an independent group that has visited the home in Lutz once a month for the past three years. The Junior League is considering now whether to renew the commitment in January.

    “It’s needed,” said Aleks Jagiella, chairwoman of Girl Power, who said she is confident the renewal will come. “I cannot envision the Junior League taking us away from the girls.”

    Jagiella, 43, a Tampa attorney, knows how foster children need adults they can trust to lean on for support. She was 16 and a senior in high school in Georgia when she entered the foster care system.

    Her parents had a bitter divorce, she said, and her father was left to raise her alone. He was not an ideal parent. She then became a difficult teen and a runaway so the court decided to place her in the foster system.

    She lived in two foster homes over a six-month period and both sets of foster parents treated her well, Jagiella said. Still, it was among the hardest experiences of her life.

    “I was uprooted from everything I knew,” she said.

    She was afraid, confused and felt alone.

    “I was in the same school and a bit embarrassed to suddenly become a foster kid so I became isolated to avoid talking about it with other kids.”

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    Jagiella credits the mother of her best friend with helping her through it. She did little things like taking her shopping or simply providing a shoulder to cry on. She was a woman the young girl could trust.

    “It was then I decided I would do the same someday,” said Jagiella, who is in the process of adopting two young foster children. “Not everyone is as lucky as I was to have such angels in their life.”

    The Junior League is an international, all-female organization that works to improve communities and develop women who want to become civic leaders.

    Each local chapter decides its focus based on community needs.

    The Junior League of Tampa, with 1,800 members, focuses on child welfare and education.

    Among its initiatives are working in schools with high populations of low-income students to ensure they receive proper nutrition and educating the community on issues such as human trafficking of children.

    “The Junior League is always searching for new ways to help the community,” said Tampa chapter President Stacy Carlson. “Unfortunately for girls at Joshua House, there have not been consistent role models in their lives. We felt we could help.”

    The Joshua House is a residence for 36 children, 24 of them girls. An estimated 150 foster children live there for some period each year, said philanthropy director Janet Caramello.

    Some are orphans. Others have parents living in the area but home life is troubled.

    Joshua House can serve as a short-term transitional residence during the search for a foster home or, as with Chavon, a long-term home if a child can best benefit from consistent access to its therapeutic services, Caramello said.

    The average length of stay is five to six months.

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    Every year, more than 1,000 Florida teens and young adults leave foster care without families, according to the Children’s Home Society of Florida. Thirty-three Percent of those who leave without a support system will be homeless within three years.

    In addition, 50 percent of young adults who leave foster care at 18 are unemployed and for those who do have jobs, the average income is less than $14,000 a year, the society says.

    By promoting self-esteem and scholastic success, Girl Power hopes to turn around those statistics.

    “Girl Power provides the girls at Joshua House educational opportunities and stresses the importance of education,” Carlson said. “But I think showing them that there are adults in our community who care about them and are concerned about their futures is just as important.”

    Still, the girls at the Joshua House did not take to the Junior League women at first, Jagiella said.

    “They saw us as nothing more than women in pearls,” she said with a laugh. “Like typical teenagers, they would roll their eyes at us when we talked.”

    What won them over, Jagiella said, was the return visits. The foster children came to realize that the Girl Power would come back month after month, not leave them as so many others have.

    It also helped to learn that Jagiella and another committee member had been foster children.

    “It’s nice to have role models who experienced what I have and succeeded,” Chavon said. “It proves I can do it, too.”

    ❖ ❖ ❖

    In Girl Power’s first year, the volunteers seldom would see more than half the female residents of Joshua House attended an event. Today, all 24 usually turn out.

    “The girls here say Girl Power is among their favorite activities,” Caramello said. “Chavon in particular has taken their mentorship to heart. It has changed her. She is more confident now and plans to go to college.”

    The learning process has extended to members of the committee, too.

    Originally, they focused primarily on applying for college, career advice or literacy. Then a year ago, employees of the Joshua House informed the Junior League women that the girls could use some woman to woman talk, as well.

    Now, the get-togethers cover a wide range of subject matter. The Girl Power volunteers also bring along small gifts a parent might give out — sewing kits, diaries, makeup and hair accessories.

    Recently, when a few of the teenage girls had a school dance to attend, Girl Power helped them with dresses for the occasion.

    Still, the group is about more than giving. It is also about teaching to give.

    In October, for instance, Girl Power brought a seamstress to Joshua House to teach the girls to sew. Using their new skill, the girls stitched Teddy Bears for a Ronald McDonald House as presents for the sick and injured children who are served there.

    In December, the girls will buy holiday presents for a poor family.

    The lesson is civic-minded thinking, that there is always someone in greater need.

    This has inspired Chavon.

    An honor student now, she wants to become a doctor — maybe a heart surgeon.

    “I want to help people,” she said, “because people are helping me.”

  • Aug 31 2015

    Triad Employees volunteer at Joshua House

    by Bridget Roberston

    A group of Triad team members from the St. Petersburg headquarters used their company-sponsored volunteer day to help spruce up a few buildings at Joshua House.

    Watch their video here.
  • Jan 28 2015

    Ardent Joshua House kids' supporter to host open house


    TEMPLE TERRACE — Jan Sutton has never been one who seeks attention.

    But she has no qualms in telling people about her passion for collecting teddy bears and Beanie Babies — and selling them to benefit a group of children she believes deserve special consideration all their own.

    “It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about the kids.”

    Toward that end Sutton is planning to host an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 31 in her home at 6814 Monet Circle in Temple Terrace. It’s where she houses the countless donations she’s garnered in recent months in anticipation of the upcoming event.

    The public is invited to stop in, browse and buy whatever cuddly creatures catch their fancy.

    Sutton has raised more than $25,000 over the past six years, which in turn she’s donated to Joshua House, a residential group care program in Lutz for children 6 to 17 who’ve been abused, neglected and abandoned.

    She specifically stipulates that the money be spent on activities for the kids, such as pizza parties, movies and trips to area attractions.

    Sutton — who when she invites guests to her home for special occasions requests they bring teddy bears or Beanie Babies in lieu of wine as tokens of their appreciation — also raises money for children’s holiday parties at Joshua House as well as raises funds for the boys and girls softball uniforms.

    To supplement the sales of the donated items she assembles and mans a large booth — of course with an array of teddy bears and Beanie Babies for sale — near Dillard’s at the Shops at Wiregrass from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.

    “I just can’t imagine what it’s like for her to set up the tables and all the bears,” said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of Joshua House Foundation. “She is a wonderful lady who just wants to help those kids.”

    In recognition of Sutton’s generous contributions for the children at the Joshua House, the foundation awarded her the 2013 Olin Mott Golden Heart Award, named after one of its founders.

    Terry Perkins is the fire chief of the Medulla Volunteer Fire Department in Lakeland and an employee of the company Sutton’s husband founded, which is now run by their son. Perkins said that during the Christmas holidays his crew raised enough money to purchase more than 150 new teddy bears — bears they donated to her cause.

    “We were happy to do it because Jan is so supportive of Joshua House and those kids,” he said.

    Donations, however, need not be new because Sutton also is in the doll repair business and is happy to mend a “broken” arm or most any other “boo-boo” an item may have.

    For more information or to donate items, call (813) 980-2507.

    Joyce McKenzie can be reached at

  • Jan 13 2015

    DCF Recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Says Increase in Calls Reporting Human Trafficking Points Way to Success

    by Florida Department of Children and Families

    For Immediate Release: January 13, 2015

    TALLAHASSEE, FL – Calls reporting suspected human trafficking in Florida have doubled since 2010, a reflection of successful awareness and education efforts that are being recognized and applauded during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

    “While the horror of human trafficking is unspeakable, talking about it is our only hope for eradicating it,” said Mike Carroll, Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), which houses the Florida Abuse Hotline and Florida’s Human Trafficking Coordinator. “Very few people are unaware of what human trafficking is, which was not true four years ago, and that is a sure sign of the effectiveness of our partnerships.”

    In fiscal year 2011, the Florida Abuse Hotline received 480 calls regarding human trafficking. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014, the Hotline received 978 calls. More than half of the calls came from central and southeast Florida.

    Multiple local, statewide and national partnerships, including state agencies, Community-Based Care lead agencies, service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judiciary and concerned citizens, are driving the fight against human trafficking in Florida.

    DCF also works closely with its Community-Based Care partners and now more than 250 case managers and child protective investigators have special certification in human trafficking. In addition, a Department of Children and Families and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Statewide Tools workgroup has developed a Human Trafficking Screening Instrument that will help child welfare professionals and DJJ staff identify victims of human trafficking so appropriate services can be provided. Training on the new tool is under way.

    DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking, also referred to as slavery or servitude.

     Heart-wrenching examples of how children are used in sex trafficking include:

    • A minor trading a sex act with an adult in exchange for a place to sleep.
    • A pimp prostituting out an adolescent.
    • A father trading his underage daughter for crack.
    • A mother allowing her landlord to have sex with her child as rent payment.
    • A fifteen year old trading a sex act with an adult for money
    • A nightclub owner providing shelter and food for minors in exchange for exotic dancing.

    The Florida Legislature last year provided resources to enhance screening and assessment of safe houses and therapeutic foster homes and created the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, on which Secretary Carroll serves as vice chairman.

    Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized every January.

    Media Contact: Michelle Glady, DCF Press Secretary, 850-717-4450

  • Jan 12 2015

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce introduces Hannah's Shoebox as a member of the 2015 Start Up Scholars program

    by Bridget Roberston

    Congratulations to Friends of Joshua House Board member R. Colette Glover-Hannah! 

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce introduced her company, Hannah's Shoebox- age appropriate tween shoes in women sizes as a member of the 2015 Start Up Scholars program. The Program is an initiative which aims to encourage innovation as a part of our community culture and increase instances of entrepreneurial success. Hannah’s Shoebox is an online retailer that exclusively provides fashion footwear to tween/preteen girls who wear women sizes 5-13. The online store offers a variety of styles including
    boots, flats, dressy/casual sandals and those hard to find special occasion shoes.

    Check out Hannah's Shoebox. They have already graciously provided shoes for our girls several times this year and the selection is wonderful.
  • Nov 26 2014

    There is always a reason for giving thanks

    by Joe Henderson

    Celebrating a national day of thanks, as the nation will do Thursday, might seem a little weird right now.

    The news is dominated by riots, looting and fires after the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. The weather is lousy in much of the nation and getting worse. Our national political leaders apparently believe in governing by polarization.

    And according to the latest report in, 17.6 million households in the United States were “food insecure.” I’m not sure who came up with that term, but I think the translation means a lot of people aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

    So why celebrate?

    Because we are still basically a nation of good people, and that’s reason enough.

    My friend Margie Fox, of Temple Terrace, was so excited the other day. She and two of her sisters began raising money in June to buy a wheelchair van for their other sister, Mary, who has lived with cerebral palsy for her 63 years and is a quadriplegic.

    She is also more than a little amazing. Among many other things, Mary earned a degree in social work from the University of South Florida.

    Her old van, with 157,000 miles on it, was her lifeline to doctor appointments and other necessities, and it was falling apart. That’s when her sisters went to work.

    Margie said she knew some of the people who donated money so the van could be replaced. Others, as she noted, are “new acquaintances.”

    They all have a common thread of basic compassion.

    You know people like that. Give thanks that you do.

    Goodness really is all around. Sometimes you just have to look.

    Need doesn’t take a holiday, so Metropolitan Ministries will still be feeding and supporting people in Tampa and Pasco County, just like always.

    The vital work of caring for neglected and abandoned children goes on at Tampa’s Joshua House, and always with memories of two others for whom our community should perpetually give thanks — Olin Mott and Dottie Berger MacKinnon, both of whom died in 2013.

    They were fierce advocates for society’s most vulnerable citizens. Could anyone’s legacy be better?

    Today in Sarasota, police will deliver a van filled with shoes, blankets, jackets and other necessities to a homeless shelter called the Resurrection House. Those won’t be the only acts of kindness from one human to another, far from it.

    And for all the talk about retail workers forced to work on Thanksgiving at the expense of family time, it’s no holiday for law enforcement and other first responders either.

    Emergency rooms will still be staffed.

    Nurses will work their hospital shifts to care for the sick.

    Doctors will be on call.

    And, of course, soldiers will still be stationed abroad and apart from their families. MacDill Air Force Base won’t be closed for the holiday. All of those people give their time to cover our back.

    Give thanks for that.

    Goodness enriches us every day, although sometimes we forget.

    We can and will disagree on how best to deal with issues that affect us all, but that doesn’t mean we have to assume the worst about each other.

    If you think about it for a minute, everyone basically wants the same things — health, happiness and hope. Sometimes it just takes a day like Thanksgiving to remind us of that.

    No matter what the news of the day may be, we have more in common than we realize. We’re all in this together, folks. Give thanks for that, too.

  • Nov 25 2014

    FOJH Executive Director DeDe Grundel honored at Breakfast of Champions

    by Bridget Roberston

    Our Executive Director, DeDe Grundel, was honored, on Friday, November 21st, at the Breakfast of Champions by the Centre Club’s Executive Women’s Council. Breakfast of Champions honors local residents who are seen as a “Children’s Champion” through their work with children who need assistance to survive and succeed.
  • Nov 20 2014

    Help give foster kids back their dignity with the suitcases you no longer need

    by Sarina Fazan

    Patty Wyman, the owner of Day Spa 580 in Dunedin, was on her Facebook page when she came saw a plea for suitcases posted by friend Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel.
    “Our nothing could be a child’s everything,” Wyman said.
    Wyman sprang to action.
    "I just started asking, ‘Do you have bags or luggage you are not using anymore?’ and they just started dropping them off by the day spa," Wyman said.
    Levent wanted to get luggage for foster kids who typically arrive at homes like Friends of Joshua House, a home for abused, abandoned and neglected children, with all their belongings in a garbage bag.
    Levent, a longtime supporter of the home, asked its executive director, DeDe Grundel, if the children could help name the charity.
    They came up with “It's My Bag.”
    Talking about the effort moved Levent to tears so much so it was hard for her to speak about her mission.
    "We have so much. It's time to share. It's time to give," Levent said.
    She started using her contacts through her own agency and soon people from as far as Australia wanted to help.
    She's already collected dozens of suitcases. Business owners like Wyman are taking it one step further, sponsoring the program and then personally delivering the suitcases and filling them with everything from socks to blankets.
    Grundel said it's changing kids’ lives.
    "It's the point you carry yourself with dignity, and that someone thought of you as a human being, that they did not think your stuff is garbage," Grundel said. "Tammy Levent hit this on the nose. It's what these kids need.
    Grundel  hopes Tammy's idea will spread  and all foster children no matter where they go, either this facility or another, will get back a piece of pride.
    The residents of Friends of Joshua House are provided luggage, but so many come in at the last minute, like at so many other foster care facilities, with their belongings in garbage bags.
    Levent also said if you drop off a bag, there's an added incentive: Each drop off location will give you a reward, such as a gift certificate.
    To find out more information you can  just head to .