But the problem got solved on Thursday, July 17 after the Racine Community Foundation, Racine Automotive Group, Custom Painted Vehicles, Leroy Butler, and other donors came to the rescue and the Lojeski’s picked up a 2013 Ford Escape.
Executive directors Mark and Heather Lojeski started the nonprofit two years ago as a labor of love because they are foster parents and when children would arrive, they often came with a trash bag full of their belongings.
“Imagine you are 7 years old, removed from your home, handed a trash bag and given 5 minutes gather your personal belongings. How would you feel, being handed a trash bag for your belongings?” Heather said.
The Lojeski’s spend 60 to 80 hours a week volunteering their time to provide duffel bags filled with supplies and comfort items to children in the foster care system, children whose parents are incarcerated, and children who are human trafficking victims. But all of that work became increasingly difficult to do when their personal van started having mechanical problems earlier this year.
“We were using our own personal vehicle, which had almost 250,000 miles on it and it was really burning through the gas, which we were paying for out of our own pocket” Heather said.
And if the van is out of commission, so is Faith, Hope & Love.
“I would go through a half of a tank of gas just to go to Kenosha,” Heather said. “The van will probably make it another year, but it can really only be used for short trips.”
The group raised $17,000 in money and in-kind donations to pay for the van so that the Lojeski’s didn’t have to use their personal vehicle anymore.
The Racine Community Foundation provided the nonprofit with a large donation that helped defray the cost of the vehicle. Former Green Bay Packer Leroy Butler connected the Lojeski’s with the Racine Automotive Group, which helped them find a vehicle at a discounted price and they are helping them with the cost to maintain it. And Custom Painted Vehicles took the van and put a custom message on the vehicle that has the nonprofit’s message on the van.
“Because of the amazing support we have received from the community of Racine and our generous partners, we will be able to continue providing support for children in crisis situations throughout Racine County and beyond,” Heather said.
The new van was delivered just in time because the program will likely be expanding into Illinois and Michigan over the next several months.
The nonprofit’s next challenge: to find more warehousing space.
They’ve completely outgrown the space they have now, so much so that even if they wanted to add more volunteers they couldn’t. The expansion of the program is a mixed blessing because there are more children in need, but as the program expands it also means the Lojeski’s have the ability to help.
“We have almost everything we need for the next year, except the duffel bags, but we really need space,” Heather said. “It’s definitely taking some different directions we hadn’t planned on… but it’s in a good way, and we definitely feel good about it.”