When Jennifer Bell and her husband, Marc, learned 70 foster children had to evacuate their shelters during Hurricane Irma, the couple knew they needed to do something.
"Without hesitation, we told her to have them come to our house and we will take it from there. When the kids started to arrive, they were hungry, tired and all of them wanted a shower. At first it was just Marc and [me], and then we posted on Facebook the situation and asked for volunteers. Within minutes, friends and friends of friends started showing up," Bell told Parents.com.
"After the hurricane I encouraged my friends to volunteer and become mentors," Bell said. "These kids need to know that adults can be there for them. Not just one day. (Or three in this case)...I am asking friends to still donate money clothes and their time. I think it's important for the older kids to have mentors and to learn from others different professions. Remember most of their parents were foster kids so [to some} it's all they know."
Bell quickly learned that even though the storm has passed, these kids are still struggling with some really tough things—and they need all the help they can get, especially if that help comes from consistent, dependable adult figures in their lives.
"We brought out a birthday cake for one of the children [when they were staying at our home during the hurricane]. I told him to make a wish," Bell said. "He said 'I wish my mom would come home.' SOS is a children's village, and it does take a village to help these kids who don't have [voices]. They need stability and they need mentors. They need people who actually care and show up, not the ones who just write a check and are never seen."
Here's what Bell wants us to know about what housing these kids taught her.
"I want [people] to know that, as parents, there is no difference between these kids and their own," the mother of three said. "It's unfortunate that their circumstances are different, but they didn't want this. All these kids want is love, hugs, and someone to show up. It's easy to write a check, but all kids young and old want to feel special."