One family’s journey inspires donations for foster teens
Kay's daughter Leah and her family smile as they stand in front of their Christmas tree.
Yelle’s daughter Leah and her family.

Kay Yelle of Wilmington, North Carolina has a soft heart for foster children – and it runs in the family. Her daughter, Leah, a social worker in Florida, has one biological son with her husband. They completed their family by adopting a daughter from foster care.

“We were there the night [my granddaughter] arrived at the front door,” Yelle recalled. “She was only two years old. It was a rough night.”

The family’s foster care and adoption journey has had a broader impact in both communities.

“Leah’s church in Florida decided to do a project to support foster teens, and that impressed me,” noted Yelle. “I told my Bible study group at Lutheran Church of Reconciliation in Wilmington about it, and they asked me to take charge.”

Reaching out to LSC was a logical next step. A church presentation by Chief Development Officer Heidi Rixman had inspired Yelle to contribute to LSC’s Be The Light campaign, and she had designated her gift to LSC’s North Carolina Foster Care program.

“I called Pastor Tenny [LSC Development Officer Tennyson Shifley] and he put me in touch with Brita Nicol, an LSC Foster Care case manager in Wilmington,” Yelle added. “Brita told me that sometimes the foster teens don’t know where or when they’ll move next – and they have to carry their belongings in a big trash bag. I told our congregation, ‘That’s not going to happen anymore.’”

Yelle and her Bible study group started a donation drive, advertising on sanctuary projection screens and in church bulletins. The response was powerful.

“The congregation really came through,” said Yelle, contributing gently used suitcases and travel bags, which Yelle and her friends cleaned up.

The group also assembled hygiene kits with toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, and more. They made special kits for boys and girls and even included socks for a cozy touch. Congregants were so generous that Yelle and her friends filled an entire storage tub with the overflow. They delivered everything to LSC’s Foster Care office in Wilmington.

Nicol was flabbergasted. “I thought suitcases would be useful, but I never expected this response!” she said. “We have already given several suitcases to our teens, and they are so grateful.”

Yelle and her friends are motivated to do more. Working with Nicol, they are already brainstorming new ways to help LSC foster youth.

“God had His hand in this,” Yelle smiled.