Seniors downsizing their homes often have too much, and teens leaving foster care often don't have enough. One local organization saw the two problems as one solution.
Through a partnership with an organization supporting foster kids and families, a Granville-based business helps seniors downsize their homes and give some of their belongings to kids exiting the foster system.
Samantha Stearns' business, Songbird Transitions, began in 2016 after she and her husband returned to Ohio.
"We downsize seniors who have been living in their homes multiple decades," Stearns explained. "We help them pick and choose what pieces of furniture would fit in their new home. We want their new space to look and feel like home, so we help them transition. We set up their entire apartment, hang artwork...so they don't have any boxes."
"We think about pathways, walkers, wheelchairs and accessibility. It needs to be safe for them. It's hard when you've lived in a home for 40 years and gotten into a routine. If we can make the space function just like their old home did, then that's our job," she continued. "We set them up in their new space, go back to their original space and help relocate the rest of their belongings."
Stearns said they try to give their old belongings a second life. Part of that has happened through a partnership with Fostering Further, a Licking County based organization that supports foster kids and their families.
"It's been really amazing and awesome for our clients because it helps our clients pass on things," Stearns said. "They understand a need in the community and they are ignited."
According to Yvonne Williams with Fostering Further, their organization started in 2015. Among other things their organization does, they also have provided welcome kits including cleaning and hygiene supplies to kids aging out of the foster system and moving into their own place.
"These kids have nothing when they age out of foster care and are setting up their own place. We have tried to provide some kind of help as far as furnishings for an apartment," Williams explained, adding they've previously purchased a few pieces of dorm-like furniture and in other instances, tried to manage donations.
Williams said the partnership has been wonderful and they were able to connect Stearns with their contacts at Job and Family Services, and Bridges, a state program that supports kids who have already transitioned out of foster care.
Among the challenges kids aging out of the foster system face, Williams said, are housing - which can be difficult to find anywhere - transportation and gaining employment. To combat those challenges, Fostering Further began its Starting Strong program and recently opened its Hope Landing facility.
"I literally have shown up to bring this welcome kit with supplies and have seen kids...I walk into their apartment and there is an air mattress on the floor and there's a few bags on their belongings - usually in trash bags or duffel bags. That's all they had. That's how they moved into their apartment," Williams said. "So just having the material goods - a couch, a bed, somewhere to sit, somewhere to sleep - is a huge challenge for them."
Williams said they work with the community, taking lots of donations and passing them onto the kids.
Helping both seniors and kids aging out of foster care, Stearns said, has been rewarding for her with the little bit she's able to do.
"The kids that we meet are kind souls. They've been dealt a very tough hand... I have so much compassion for these youth because I have two of my own sons and it's hard not to see them, they're young people and they need a little bit of love," Stearns said. "I feel like my job is two-fold because I help seniors realize that the stuff they're letting go of, has a really important purpose. And that's motivating to them in the most beautiful way. They're just so delighted to help kids too."
Walking into their apartments to an air mattress on the floor and a small bag full of their belongings, Stearns said they're able to give the kids a bedroom set, a place to eat, a place to sit and socialize with their friends.
For more information about Songbird Transitions or for more information about downsizing and where to donate, visit their website at SongbirdTransitions.com.
For information about Fostering Further, their Starting Strong program, or to make a donation to their organization, visit FosteringFurther.org or StartingStrongOhio.org.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Granville business helps link older foster kids with furniture