Living out of boxes.
Always on the move.
It’s poignant to realize that the same words that can be used to describe the condition of the temporary orphans in our community, our children in foster care, can also be used to describe those committed to finding them a permanent home. For the past twenty years, 4KIDS of South Florida has been making it work in borrowed office space, often carrying their files in their cars and scheduling meetings at area restaurants because there just wasn’t a permanent place for them. Katy Mills, 4KIDS director of public relations, explains, “People from around the country contact us to find out about our programs and how they can replicate our success. It was often ‘We would love to train you. Let’s meet at Starbucks and I’ll show you on my laptop.’ After twenty years of God fulfilling His promise to use us as a ‘restorer of homes’ (Isaiah 58:12) God has given us the Home for 4KIDS.”
Located on Cypress Creek Road just west of Powerline in Fort Lauderdale, the over 14,000 feet of space is more than just an office building as it displays the story of 4KIDS and the almost twenty thousand children whom they have served.
It’s been a community project.
From its founding, 4KIDS has not relied on the efforts of a single individual, church or foundation. Fulfilling the mission to find a home for every child has always been a community-sized goal. Two years ago, when 4KIDS was gifted the building, the decision was clear. There would be no “building campaign” and no operational funds would be used. As you walk through the halls or peek into one of the common areas, it’s thrilling to remember that all the necessary demolition, construction and fixtures have been donated or funded by designated gifts. It seems only fitting.
There’s room for the mission to grow.
You know how everyone ends up in the family room of your house when you want to enjoy time together or even have a family meeting? Well now 4KIDS has a Family Room. It’s here that foster parent classes, film screenings, community engagement meetings and socials for the residents in the independent living program are held.
Have you felt the stigma of hand me downs? The Well is the place where children in crisis can use their vouchers to “shop” for brand-new items. Whether its clothing, school supplies, or emergency care, each item confirms the child’s value and worth.
The suite of rooms with mechanicals and toys? That’s where epic work is taking place in equipping foster and adoptive parents for children from hard places. And by epic, they mean an approach that considers the Emotional, Physical, Intellectual, and Character of a child.
The walls and floors tell the story of God’s faithfulness.
In May of 2015, at the project’s groundbreaking ceremony, Doug Sauder, the former president of 4KIDS and one of his adoptive sons buried an adult and a children’s Bible side by side in the foundation. This was to be a tangible reminder of both the why and the how of 4KIDS as an embodiment of the definition God provides for “pure religion” in James 1:27. Quite simply, it is to care for the widow and the orphan.
As framing started to go up, staff and clients were invited in to spray paint the walls. Not in an act of vandalism but of consecration and remembrance as they boldly sprayed verses and messages of gratitude that remain to this day behind the layers of paint. Adopted children scrawled their simple message: Thank you for my family.
Katy describes the scene. “This was a great way to remind us and the workers completing the project of what it was that we were building, something much more than just walls and floors.”
She’s quick to make the point that this new work is contained within the footprint of the previous office building. “What a reminder of God’s willingness and ability to restore the broken people as completely as he has rebuilt this building.”
The house is open.
Imagine you have been removed from your home for abuse or neglect. You’re brought into an office building filled with strangers and led down a hallway with no visible exit. You can probably feel your heart begin to beat just a little more quickly just imagining it.
At the Home for 4KIDS, every inch was designed to provide an environment of hope. In the midst of work that often requires confronting and battling the very darkest parts of the human heart, this is a building crammed with natural light and a color scheme inspired by God’s clarion call to “let justice roll like a river.”
Katy explains, “When you take a tour of the Home, you’ll see that from the rugs to the walls to the office furniture, the predominant colors are the greys and blues evocative of a river.” Colors also help to guide visitors and encourage staff and clients with purple designating gathering areas, blue reserved for those working on the front lines, green for areas where out of the box thinking is cultivated and strategies for growth discussed and orange signifies a command center where questions are answered and help dispensed.
And you’re invited!
On Thursday, September 8, 4KIDS invites you to their Grand Opening. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 12:30 p.m., guided tours, food trucks and activities for all ages. Whether you bring your Bible study group, your church staff members, your company’s employees or your family, don’t miss this chance to see for yourself the story God is writing in the hearts and lives of our community and to determine the role he has for you.
And just as with any other “family” event, there is no need to register. You’ll be welcomed because that’s what 4KIDS has always been about, welcoming people into families.
The Home for 4KIDS is located at 2717 W. Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309. For more information, visit 4kidsofsfl.org.
Anitra Parmele is a writer for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. To contact her, email [email protected].