PORT HADLOCK — As an Olympic Angels pilot family, the Pattersons are feeling a big lift.
Mom and Dad, aka Arianna and B.G. Patterson, are foster parents in the Love Box program with Olympic Angels, a nonprofit network of people across the North Olympic Peninsula. Its mission is to send volunteers — by themselves and in groups — to walk alongside foster children and their families.
The Pattersons, who own and operate the Farm’s Reach Cafe in Chimacum, have had a busy few years. They bought a home in Port Hadlock and, in just less than two years, fostered 15 children. Currently they’re caring for a 3-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy.
A little over a month ago, they adopted their baby daughter, Ivy.
The Love Box — not actually a box, but a cadre of friends who surround the foster family with caring — has made all the difference, Arianna said.
Working with Olympic Angels founder and case manager Morgan Hanna, Love Box volunteers have baked birthday cakes, delivered meals and strung Christmas lights, all when Arianna and her husband were overwhelmed with work and childcare.
The family doesn’t so much need stuff, Arianna said. But they did welcome the art supplies their Love Boxers brought for their 3-year-old, who goes through them with gusto.
Just as important, Arianna said, is the listening ear Hanna gives. There have been many times when what her family needed most was a rock-solid moral support provider.
That’s what Olympic Angels does. And the organization, which worked with counterparts in Austin, Texas, and Seattle before establishing itself as an independent chapter in January 2020, is poised to grow this year.
With about 50 youngsters in Clallam and Jefferson counties in the Love Box program, Olympic Angels plans to hire a permanent executive director and an additional case manager to serve more families.
Also key to growth: volunteers who either form a Love Box, join an existing one or become mentors for older kids in the Dare to Dream program. D2D, as it’s known, matches adults with young people who have aged out of foster care or are soon to do so.
OlympicAngels.org is the portal for the organization’s impact report, program details and volunteer applications. It’s where potential mentors and Love Boxers connect with Hanna and her small staff, including part-time case manager Stephanie Selle and recently hired interim director Mark Moder.
“In a lot of ways, I’m a matchmaker,” Hanna said.
Ever the listener, she talks with volunteers about what attracted them to the Olympic Angels mission. These volunteers can be members of a church, a club or an extended family, “and I have lots of onesies and twosies,” she said.
Joining a Love Box can also be a front-row experience for a couple who want to become foster parents one day.
Olympic Angels asks volunteers for a minimum one-year commitment, Hanna added, to be there for their matched foster child. That can include activities like taking regular trips to the park, cooking and sending a favorite dinner — and definitely finding out about the family’s particular needs.
In the Pattersons’ case, the Love Boxers provided emotional support on the intense days when Arianna went to court on behalf of her foster children.
It’s not unheard of for a youngster to arrive in a new foster home with only the clothes she or he is wearing, Hanna said.
“Can you show up with a toothbrush and a meal for the mom?” is her request to the Love Box volunteers who belong to this child.
Hanna has strong support in her own family. Her adopted son Kenenisa, 11, inspires her, as does Ian, her husband of 17 years. The volunteer president of the Olympic Angels board of directors, he’s working on growing and diversifying the board, the Love Boxes and the Dare to Dream group. The latter matches mentors with youths 15 and older to help them with life after foster care: opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, finding a job.
It’s a way to flip the narrative about the foster system, Ian said, and to act as a community: wrapping foster parents and children in support as they move through the world.
Not everyone can be a foster parent, but “everybody can make a difference in the life of a child. And kids,” he added, “are the single best investment we can make.”
Arianna didn’t take long to answer a question about what she might say to encourage a potential volunteer.
“It’s a selfless choice to make, to volunteer your time and love to another family,” she said. “And that lasts forever, really.
“I don’t think they’d ever regret it.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]