Last year, more than 11,000 children across Oregon spent time in foster care.

In Central Oregon, that number was around 500. That’s literally hundreds of children being removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. It's a sobering reality.

And every one of those children needs a foster family. Enter Every Child Central Oregon (ECCO).

Through a unique partnership with Oregon’s Department of Human Services (ODHS), ECCO recruits foster parents, then organizes volunteers to provide support to those families. Utterly essential work.

In 2021, First Story was proud to support it all by awarding two Giving Grants to ECCO for a total of $6,500.

We caught up with Brieanna Rogers, ECCO’s Community Investment Coordinator, to learn how the Giving Grant funds were utilized and, WOW. If you want to feel good about how local organizations and regular folks are supporting one another for the sake of kids, keep reading.

You probably know what a flash mob is—when a group of people in a public gathering spot randomly perform a choreographed dance—but have you heard of a flash box?

An ECCO flash box is a clear, 12-gallon tote that’s filled with family activities, gift cards, and tokens of appreciation for foster families.

When a foster family is going through a challenging time and could use a pick-me-up, ECCO delivers a flash box to the family in flash mob style, i.e. the family is surprised and doesn’t know it’s coming.

One of the First Story Giving Grants was spent on flash box supplies and Hayden Homes team members in Redmond got to assemble the boxes!

“First Story has impacted so many organizations across Central Oregon and we’re really humbled by how much Hayden Homes and First Story believe in sowing into the community,” said Brieanna.

But we’re not the only ones giving back.

In March of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, ECCO launched the My NeighbOR dashboard. It allows foster families to submit a real-time need request for things like diapers, high chairs, and kids' clothes. The needs are listed on the dashboard, where community members can view and pledge to meet the need. The platform provides an easy way for neighbors to help neighbors and so far, community members have helped meet over 1,500 need requests from foster families. That’s more than 3,000 items that have been delivered to foster families across Central Oregon.

The funds from First Story’s second Giving Grant supported the My NeighbOR program. Sometimes there’s a need that’s been listed on My NeighbOR but hasn’t been filled. And sometimes there’s an urgently-needed item, such as a car seat, that can’t wait for a community member. ECCO uses grant funds like the ones from First Story to fill those needs.

Through their flash box and My NeighbOR programs, ECCO is making it possible and easier for more community members to support children in foster care. You don’t have to become a foster parent, or resource parent, to care for children and families in the foster care system. That’s a story we’re proud to share and support!