The Joy of Giving: An Executive Director's Perspective | Anna's House Foundation

The Joy of Giving: An Executive Director's Perspective

Q: How long have you been with The Anna's House Foundation?

A: I started volunteering with Anna's House in 2009, so 8 years.

Q: What made you decide to start your work with AHF?

A: While my family was fostering infants and toddlers (2004-2009), I saw so many babies that had spent weeks in the shelter. An atmosphere similar to a shift change worker in a shelter for children 0-18 years old just broke my heart, particularly for the babies. I was so deeply saddened by the fact that each baby we cared for had spent many days in shelters and bounced from homes because studies show that the period of 0-3 years old is critical for neurological development and bonding. There had to be something better! I learned of a new nonprofit called Anna's House that was focusing on an alternative to the state-run shelter.

Q: Describe the impact that AHF has on foster children in Oklahoma.

A: Anna's House had just become a nonprofit in 2009. We originally provided tangible help to families such as clothing, car seats, and beds. We also had a non-funded contract with the state for foster home recruitment. The organization's founder, Greg Harkins, who was also the director at the time, spoke in churches and civic groups to spread the awareness of the need for good foster homes.

From the beginning, Anna's House Foundation had the vision to build a foster care neighborhood in which certified foster families would live in single family homes and care for infants and toddlers as an alternative to shelter care. By providing housing, a greater number of children could be cared for in each home (5 foster children in a foster home is DHS policy max).

In 2010, I joined the Board of Directors. Fundraising was slow but steady over the next few years, and in 2012 we were able to begin laying the groundwork on some property that was donated by Amy and Church Clowers in Luther, OK. In spring of 2013, I became the Executive Director but chose to continue my volunteer work (which I continue today) because serving families and children in this way is my passion. That same year, the state opened up contracts with licensed child placing agencies for foster home recruitment, certification, and child placement. We decided it made sense for us to take this step because we wanted to not only be landlords of the community homes, but we also wanted to be intrinsically involved in every aspect of the process,

Not only do we recruit families for the community in Luther, but we also recruit and certify families to foster in their own homes in Central Oklahoma. Since becoming a licensed placing agency, Anna's House has grown to seven employees and has licensed about 65 foster homes and placed 165 children to date. We have built five homes in our community with plans to build three more as well as a multipurpose center. Today, the purpose of the homes in the Luther community is to serve large sibling groups that would otherwise be separated.

Q: Describe your role and responsibilities with AHF.

A: As Executive Director of a small nonprofit, I wear many hats! I am primary fundraiser, grant writer, property developer, landlord, HR director, and event planner. I do it all but I love it all! There are so many areas that bring me joy. I love seeing the raw land develop and seeing siblings live there together! I love seeing kiddos adopted and I love seeing biological families restored (it does happen!). I also love seeing my Care Specialists serve families. I may be biased but I have the best! They are passionate about their jobs and serve families with all their heart. My heart's desire is for kids who are broken and hurt to be taken to a refuge like Anna's House where they are told that they are full of worth and deeply loved by their Heavenly Father. I want them to know that there is a purpose for their lives.

I'm honored to be a very small part of it and am thankful the Lord has used me in this way. Anna's House belongs to the Lord, I just do what I can and seek His direction.

– Darci Oplotnik, Executive Director, The Anna's House Foundation