We couldn’t wait to meet Becky Shaffer last fall after we heard about her mission to help young girls aging out of the foster care system. The way we saw it, this was a new generation of moms (in the future) and they needed the extra support to help keep them on the right track. Four hundred volunteers later, and the tireless work of Becky and her husband, Saving Grace opened at the end of 2009.
The facility — a renovated convent in Rogers — is truly amazing. As foster children, many of the girls who will live at Saving Grace have never had their own bedroom. And what dream bedrooms these are. To parallel the uniqueness of every girl, a friend of Becky’s gave each room a distinct beauty and flair.
We’ve been so pleased to be able to help Saving Grace twice with the help of nwaMotherlode mamas across Northwest Arkansas. We donated lightbulbs HERE and food for the Saving Grace pantry HERE. It was such a great feeling to be able to be a small part of this wonderful undertaking — as well as to become friends with this “Amazing Mom”, Becky Shaffer.
We asked Becky some questions about her journey to help provide hope and a “safe harbor” for local young women:
What inspired you to start Saving Grace? I was taken away from my mother who was violently abusive. I was placed in a children’s home where I did very well with having support all around me. I graduated from high school and went to college (mostly for a place to live) and all of my belongings went with me. I didn’t know what I would do for the holidays because there were no options for me.
I was pregnant and married by Christmas. My husband and I have been married for 21 years and have 3 daughterss: Caitlynn-5, Hannah-14 and Christin-20. We spent 18 years as house parents to foster children and saw a need to help these young women as they transition into their adulthood. We took a year off from full time ministry to young women in crisis and then started researching and looking for office space to work out of and ended up with the old convent space behind the old St. Mary’s hospital in Rogers!
Can you tell us about your personal foster care experience? I did well at the children’s home due to the support, patience and unconditional love I found there. I also asked Jesus into my heart and began to understand the beauty in His grace. I went from making very poor grades and being in special education to making good grades in regular classes.
The main problem was attaching to the foster parents who I called mom and dad and then them not being able to fulfill that role in my adulthood. There was a point in my thirties where I had to grieve over the fact that I didn’t have any parents and my children didn’t have grandparents from my side. It later made me a much better foster parent/house parent at the children’s home my husband and I worked at.
Obviously you’ve been a foster mom to many in your life! Can you share with us what that was like? Great question! First of all, the first few years I was only a few years older than the girls in my home….I still had a lot of growing up to do myself! 🙂 Having been in their “shoes” I knew much more than most people in the position so in my head I thought I knew much more than I really did. I grew up a lot in those first few years. I also knew what the girls were up to most of the time when they thought nobody would figure it out….mostly because I probably tried to get away with it myself.
The hardest part for me was probably getting attached and getting hurt. It didn’t stop me from loving the girls and trying to reach them and touch their lives though. We still have many girls who call us mom and dad and we have several grand-children and wish they all lived closer so we could spoil them better. I was “Nana” at 29 years old with the first grandbaby.
Being in residential care myself at the children’s home helped me know better how to serve these girls. Trust me, I made mistakes and I’ve had to go back and apologize for my lack of understanding and looking back especially in the early years, know I could have done better….that’s only because of my own experience. We all do the best we can, even with our own children. Just like most women, I second guess myself and wish I would have done more. I was able to spend Thanksgiving week in North Carolina near Ft. Bragg with my newest grandson and our daughter Crystal. It was a joy to just dote over him for a week with no distractions! 🙂
What volunteer opportunities do you have right now at Saving Grace? Many! Office help (answer phones, light cleaning in office..), weekend house volunteers (be at the house to be a responsible presence), mentors for girls, women willing to come and share about their career and what it took to get there…for a career fair, fundraising help with ideas and helping facilitate events, volunteer coordinator …
Tell us about how women in the community can help with mentoring. You’ll have a play area for mentoring moms with kids, right? We do have a play room so moms can bring their kiddos and so that our young women here can learn from being around other women and their children. I learned so much from other moms when I was in my teens and twenties. We welcome women who want to invest in these girls lives with their time and energy. They need to be shown a different way to live and raise a family.
What are your main goals for the girls of Saving Grace? There is a silent epidemic in our nation: young men and women living under private or public programs reaching adulthood without the resources they need to succeed. They look like normal healthy adults, but at night you may find them sleeping in their car or on a friend’s couch. Without adequate resources, high rates of crime, drug use, homelessness, suicide, and emotional trauma are often the result. Where do they go for help? Who hears their crying when they are alone?
Saving Grace will help young women ages 18-24 unlock doors of opportunity, security and hope through education and supportive relationships. More importantly we will encourage them to deepen their faith, strengthen their resolve and learn to trust others – because they have learned trust a Savior. We hope to offer other communities inspiration to “repair the breach and restore the streets” across our great nation.
Acceptance, restoration and hope are often taken for granted, but for those living without — receiving them makes all the difference in the world .
Are the girls encouraged to attend college? They are strongly encouraged to attend college or learn a trade. Education is part of their rent reduction. If they’ve not completed high school they will have the opportunity to do so.
Why do you think so many people have reached out to help? I speak all over Northwest Arkansas and every time I share what we are doing and why there is a need for a place like Saving Grace, most people are shocked to find out there is such a great need for these young people. It truly is a silent epidemic and the more we share the need the more there will be people willing to rise up and do something to make a difference.
Northwest Arkansas is full of compassion for these young people and are making a difference by getting involved and being proactive. We’ve had so many generous people that have gotten involved. We’ve also had people who can only afford to give of their time. Most people have been hands on and still are. There are so many generous people who have given of their time, money and talents! 🙂
How many girls are living at Saving Grace right now? We have 2 residents and 2 resident assistants living at SGI, with several applications out and we are looking forward to having lots of laughter in these halls!
Each girl has her own beautifully unique room. What does that mean to them? There are 14 rooms that have been decorated in the latest in room décor and they look amazing. Check out the pictures on our website and on our FACEBOOK page under Saving Grace. The people of Northwest Arkansas showed up and got to work! 🙂 We have a beautiful facility that anyone would be proud to call home.
Do you have any future plans for Saving Grace that just aren’t feasible right now? Wow, this is such a great question. We would love to open a facility for young men. There is a huge need for young men to have a transitional house too. We have also gotten several calls for young moms 18-24 with infants who are homeless or just in a really bad situation. We are looking into what we can do to help meet this need as well. Our focus for now is young women 18-24 aging out of foster care and/or homeless who need a safe place to transition and hope for a future where they too can make a difference in the lives of those around them in need.
Thanks again to Becky for answering our (many) questions. Here we are with Becky in one of those gorgeous Saving Grace bedrooms!