Amy Sullivan is a wife, mother of three, and works part-time at her church in Memphis, TN. Even while handling all of these responsibilities, she still finds time to respond to one of her greatest passions through volunteerism. I was very impressed with all that she and her church are doing in response the needs surrounding Foster Care and I think you’ll be too. Our conversation is below!
Eli (Communications Director for TNFBCI): Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. I’m excited to hear about what you do. To start off, tell us where live and what keeps you busy these days…
Amy: I live in Memphis, Tennessee with my husband, Eric, and three children. Our kids are ages 17, 15, and five. They keep me pretty busy! I work part time at my church, Faith Baptist, in the missions office. I am also involved in two nonprofit organizations, Jungle Kids for Christ and 901 pop. Lastly, I have a small business I operate from home.
Eli: Woo Memphis! I live here too. I think it’s the best, but I’m biased. How long have you worked/attended Faith Baptist?
Amy: We have attended Faith for about 12 years, but I have only been working there since August of 2020.
Eli: So you must’ve experienced the joys of starting a job during a pandemic. How was that?
Amy: It was strange! I accepted the position in March of 2020, literally right before the world shut down. So I stayed on with my former organization until school started in August and things picked back up a little bit.
Eli: I’m glad things are picking back up. Tona Ottinger of MFCC tells me that Faith Baptist helps support Foster Care. That’s exciting. In what ways does it?
Amy: MFCC is one of our faith on mission partners. We have an annual missions offering to raise support for all of partners globally, nationally and locally. MFCC is one of those partners, so they receive funding. Additionally, we are a host site for their annual Red Tub Day. This is where our members sign up and fill a tub to provide Christmas gifts for a child in foster care.
That may have been more about MFCC. I’ll expound on other ways we support foster care…
Our church recently hosted the Hope for the Journey conference, which provides trauma-informed principles for working with children affected by foster care and adoption. We offered this free to the community and foster parents could attend and receive training hours to meet their DCS requirements.
Additionally, we have a weekly support group, we call it a CARE group, for foster and adoptive moms. Here they can receive empathy, encouragement and prayer from other moms.
Tonight, actually, we are hosting a Parents Night Out, free of charge, for single foster moms in Shelby County.
Lastly, our One Less Orphan ministry often sponsors meals or gift cards for families when they receive a new foster placement.
Eli: Wow. Tona wasn’t lying. That is all truly amazing. As you know, it takes the whole community to make foster care work. So all this is so encouraging. How has this engagement changed the culture of your church/community?
Amy: I would say that we are trying to keep the needs in front of our congregation. By hearing about foster care on a regular basis, it increases awareness and generosity. We participate in a national Orphan Sunday each fall and have focused on various topics through the years. This year, we plan to focus on foster care that day and have some actionable ways that members can commit to being a part of the community that supports foster families.
Eli: Beautiful. Do you see the youth at your church being inspired by it?
Amy: Not specially, YET. But I think they will be. They continue to hear about the needs in worship services. And, through some local Memphis serve weeks this summer, they will be exposed to some foster families by serving them. Opportunities like this increase their awareness and help students see how they can help out the foster care community, too.
Eli: Absolutely. They are receiving a foundation that they can look back on when they are older. You also help support Foster Care on your own time. In what ways?
Amy: My husband and I were foster parents for about five years. Prior to that, we knew very little about Foster Care. On the backside of that, we have a deep understanding for the difficulties of fostering and what foster families need to keep going.
I work with a local nonprofit called Foster Village Memphis and set up a meal train for foster families when they receive a new placement. I also do a lot of cooking or just ordering meals myself. Just feeding all of the people can be added stress that can easily be alleviated by a meal delivered to your door. I think that is one of the more practical ways I can serve families.
I also just really try to increase awareness and rally support. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing about Foster Care or how to help. You don’t know what you don’t know. But I also believe that once you know, you can’t pretend you don’t. So, I try to use my personal social media to make people aware of ways they can help.
Also, I try to support foster families by elevating needs in the other organizations I am a part of. Whether it is my church, my children’s school, or other nonprofits I serve, I try to layer in support for Foster Care on top of existing initiatives or structures that are already in place.
For example, I serve on the steering committee for a new nonprofit called 901 POP. We repurpose wedding and event flowers in order to spread joy to others. We often take flowers to assisted living facilities, hospitals, grief share groups, etc. However, since May is Foster Care Awareness Month, I proposed that we deliver the flowers to foster moms. Thankfully the group was on board! So using volunteers from 901 POP, Foster Village Memphis, families at our school, and other local churches with Foster Care ministry teams, we delivered fresh flowers and handwritten notes to about 50 foster moms! This little act of encouragement can go a long way!
Eli: You seem very busy. How do you make time to prioritize serving in these ways? Do you have any practical advice?
Amy: Serving foster families is a passion. I think as we grow our families, advance in careers, and fill our schedules, we have to constantly evaluate if we are spending our time on things that fall in line with our faith and personal passions. There are so many wonderful causes and ways to spend your time. God has specifically crafted my heart to care about Foster Care. Sometime this means saying no to other good and noble projects, organizations, and commitments. But I believe as volunteers, if we aren’t using our time and energy on things we are really passionate about, we will burn out quickly. I’m a person that, in my heart, wants to say “yes” to a lot of things. But I know now, based on my family dynamics and finite amount of time, I have to give careful consideration to what I say “yes” to.
I’d say, you occasionally have to take a hard look at how you are spending your time. For the discretionary hours you have, are you spending them on things that really wake you up in the morning? Are these things you daydream about? Or are they things you’ve committed to for some reason and somehow you find yourself going through the motions, but it is not really your passion? If so, I’d encourage others to reprioritize and maybe even make some hard decisions. In the end, it’s so worth it to spend your days doing what you love.
Eli: Wow. That is a really good word. I hope others reading this are inspired to find their passion and invest their time in service to it! Thank you so much Amy. I really appreciate all that you do. On behalf of The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, thank you!
Amy: Thank you! I am so grateful for the work you are doing, as well. Let’s keep loving kids and families