By Elizabeth Matthews
Ramona is the single mother of two young daughters; a Florida transplant who didn’t have a support system in place when she needed surgery. Who would care for her girls?
Ramona and her daughters’ lives were forever changed when the Better Together Foundation stepped in and connected them with a host family to support them in their time of need. Her story is just one of the personal testimonies and connections highlighted Friday night in Jacksonville at a Better Together Foundation “Doing Good Together” reception.
The Better Together Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Naples, Florida that seeks to empower people to help themselves, keep families together, keep children out of foster care and help job seekers find employment. The organization partners with churches to help those who have fallen on hard times by providing host families for parents to voluntarily place their children while they get on their feet.
They also provide job coaches, family advocates/mentors and faith-based coordinators to fill in the gaps and ensure that families thrive. The volunteer host families are unpaid and open their homes, getting and expecting nothing in return. Their motivation is an overflow of the love of Christ and a desire to share hope.
Megan Rose, CEO, started the Better Together Foundation in 2015 using her experience working with children and families. Her personal family history made her sensitive to what it looks like when families are supported by their church and community through tough times.
The organization has provided temporary housing to more than 5,400 children in Florida and helped more than 39,000 people find employment in 23 states through its Better Jobs program. For the past year and half, Better Together has served Northeast Florida and Nassau County families. It would like to expand, as there are currently 1,378 children in foster care in Nassau County.
I had the opportunity to meet the Northeast Florida Outreach Director, Sheena Wood. Based in Fernandina Beach, Sheena also has a heart for supporting families due to her background. She lived in eleven foster homes before being adopted by a wonderful Christian family.
Sheena’s adopted family took her to church, and she remembers wondering why the church people loved her, too. And she acquired maternal grandparents — more love! The Better Together host families love the children well while they are in their care. Sheena said, “Children always remember those early experiences. It matters that people feel loved as a child.”
She can’t help but wonder how different her life would have been if her mother had had an organization like Better Together to help keep her family together, to help her find a job or give her a mentor. There wasn’t anything like Better Together for Sheena’s mom.
But they are available today, so other stories like hers have a different ending. Although the Better Together Foundation partners with the state of Florida Department of Children and Families, it receives no government assistance. It’s a labor of love for all involved and runs on the generosity of others. Better Together is 100% donor funded.
To find out more about Better Together, and ways to help, go to bettertogetherus.org. Friday night, the community room at the Church of Eleven22 was filled with families served, community partners, churches, volunteers, sponsors and Better Together staff — proving that it really does take a village.