OWENSBORO, Kentucky — One thing that foster parents desire more than anything else is support, said the founder and president of Borrowed Hearts Owensboro in western Kentucky.

Borrowed Hearts is a local ministry to children and families in foster care, providing donated clothing, hygiene products, and toys along with that much-needed support. All items are available for foster families to “shop” at the store free-of-charge.

Borrowed Hearts’ founder and president, Amanda Van Bussum, was a foster parent herself for 10 years. She understands the unique calling, as well as its unique challenges and joys.

“It’s all stuff you learn, which you don’t know starting out,” said Van Bussum, who lives in Newburgh, Indiana, in the Diocese of Evansville, and belongs to St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight, Indiana.

Borrowed Hearts opened in Owensboro in December 2019, just months before COVID-19 hit the United States.

Van Bussum said the pandemic, related shutdowns and changing regulations made things difficult for the brand-new nonprofit, but “we didn’t want to stop serving.”

The board members came up with creative ways to continue ministering. They accepted donations on their own porches, coordinated with foster families by leaving items outside Borrowed Hearts’ door for the families to pick up, and even delivered items to families’ homes.

As restrictions eased, Borrowed Hearts began posting its hours on Facebook and later scheduled appointments for foster families to visit and receive individualized attention.

It turned out this was a great way to individually serve each family, and Van Bussum said the ministry has continued this system even as the pandemic ebbs. Currently, they have slots available for two families every half hour during Borrowed Hearts’ open hours.

“Sometimes more than shopping, they need to talk,” said Van Bussum, explaining that time slots help with “being able to focus on the individuals.”

She added that they have separate time slots for donation drop-offs.

“We want to pour into the families at our store, and also affirm and validate the people who bring donations,” she told The Western Kentucky Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Owensboro.

The love and attention for this ministry is evident in the organization and aesthetic of the store itself.

Besides the clothing sections, Borrowed Hearts also offers ready-to-go hygiene kits for babies, children and teens alike when they are first placed with foster families.

The ministry also provides snack baskets for families upon initial placement because as Van Bussum put it: “Familiar foods can be such a comfort for a kid undergoing transition or who has been through trauma.”

Everything at Borrowed Hearts has been donated “so obviously the biggest task is staying on top of donations.”

Borrowed Hearts has regular volunteers and groups of volunteers, too, like Friends of Sinners, American Heritage Girls, and local student and youth groups.

The group serves about 40-50 children a month, and the ages span from babies to teens.

“Most families come and shop every season,” Van Bussum said. Normally, they come to Borrowed Hearts upon initial placement but the ministry encourages families to visit even more frequently.

She emphasized that “this is the community’s way of supporting you … it is nice to know you don’t have to do it all yourself.” She also wants Borrowed Hearts to be more than a store. “I want it to be a movement, where people can come and be filled up.”

“We’re here for the whole journey, ” she added. “We want to walk alongside them and not just at placement.”

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Barnstead is editor of The Western Kentucky Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Owensboro.