For the Worth of a Child
How two women worked to keep a ministry alive
By Emily Robnett
If there is one universal truth about small towns, it is this: word travels fast.
For the Worth of a Child, a non-profit program that assists foster families in providing essentials to the foster children in their care, started with a phone call. The Department of Human Services (DHS) had picked up two small children who had only the clothes on their backs and needed assistance in providing their basic necessities—clothing, diapers and personal care products.
By the end of the day, the community had come together to aid these children in their time of need. The experience inspired those involved to reach out to some women at Perry-First, and For the Worth of a Child was born.
When the ministry was formed, Noble County had more children in foster care per capita than any other county in Oklahoma. Initially, the program started as a small backpack ministry. Many foster children move from place to place with nothing but a black garbage bag full of their belongings, and the program provided backpacks to use instead.
Eventually, the need for these backpacks and the essentials they provided grew, and the church obtained a $10,000 Petree Grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation to expand their project to include not just backpacks but also beds and mattresses for infants and toddlers.
Like many fledgling programs, For the Worth of a Child came close to dissolution. Right around the time the church began to receive clothing for foster children, the program’s founders became unable to continue leading the ministry. The clothing went into storage.
Months later, lay members Linda Parham and Janet Shannon discovered the donations.
“We were cleaning out the church and came across the donated clothing,” said Parham. “We said to one another, ‘We have to do something with this; we cannot allow this program to die.’”
The two women began sorting clothes, and they organized the inaugural First Friday for Foster Families, an all-day shopping event.
From that first event grew an ever-expanding ministry. At first, Parham and Shannon were given a small, corner room in the church for their project, but within a few months, their clothing closet encompassed three rooms.
Today, For the Worth of a Child has separate rooms for summer and winter clothing as well as a storage room for overflow and personal hygiene items. Not only do they have clothing available at the church, the two women keep clothing of all sizes at DHS for emergency use.
A monthly shopping day is offered for DHS workers and families to come to the church and pick up whatever their children might need—clothing, shoes, toiletries, diapers—all free of charge.
“For the children who receive these much-needed essentials, it is a like Christmas every month,” Shannon said.
For the Worth of a Child’s support extends far beyond the walls of Perry-First. The Perry community has come together to support this important ministry through a variety of fundraisers. The program has also brought awareness to the needs of foster children in Oklahoma and has inspired a number of organizations in Perry to get involved in the mission.
One such fundraiser was sponsored by the local Masons, who have raised a total of $16,000 for the organization.
Noble county churches of all denominations, as well as local businesses, overwhelmingly supported a foster children’s “shower” to ensure this program continued.
The women of Christ Lutheran Church of Perry purchased 50 pillows and sewed child-friendly pillow-cases.
After touring the facility and hearing about the needs of their peers, the youth of Christ Lutheran bought thirty hoodies for junior high and high school aged foster children and donated $150 to the cause.
Three women’s civic clubs – the Perry Study Club, the Tuesday Afternoon Study Club, and the Perry Progress Club – purchased shoes for foster children for an entire year.
In March, Perry High School students will be sponsoring a week-long drive to raise funds to benefit For the Worth of a Child.
The impact this program has had on the Perry community and the foster families of Noble County cannot be underestimated. In a statement, Noble County Child Welfare commended For the Worth of a Child in a statement.
“This [program] has been a great asset to foster families. Often times, foster parents are on a limited income and have many children placed in their home," the statement said. "For the Worth of a Child eases financial stress of many foster parents.”
When asked why they were passionate about this ministry, Parham and Shannon pointed to Psalm 127:3: “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”
“We do this for two reasons: first, for the children, and second, because we hope to encourage families to take in foster children,” Shannon said. “So many families have the love needed to do this work, but not the finances. That’s where For the Worth of a Child comes in.”
Parham and Shannon are passionate about For the Worth of a Child and are willing to help other United Methodist Churches start programs in their area.
“We will gladly offer a tour of our facility and our guidance to anyone who is interested in starting a program like ours in their area,” Shannon said.
“Many churches have empty Sunday school rooms like ours,” Shannon said. “Why not utilize that space for something worthwhile? Every county in Oklahoma has foster children and children in crisis, so we know the need is there.”
The duo recommends reaching out to local DHS agencies to inquire about what foster children need.
For foster parents like Jamie Horner, the program has made a meaningful impact. Horner’s first foster child was placed with her at six days old in mid-winter, yet Horner only had infant clothes for spring and summer.
“Someone at work mentioned the organization to me and gave me Janet Shannon’s phone number. Although they are normally open one day a month, Janet met with me immediately, and I was able to get my little one all the essentials—from clothes to pacifiers to bottles.”
As her foster child has grown, Horner continues to pick-up necessities from the church.
“I honestly look forward to shopping days,” Horner said. “I feel like my little one has extra grandmas in her life.”
Sometimes, all it takes to make a difference is a simple phone call. Word travels fast, and at Perry-First, the response is even faster.
For more information, contact Perry-First at (580) 336-2776. §