For almost a year and a half, the BigHouse Foundation, located on Samford Avenue in Opelika, has done what it tries to do best: reach out to and improve the lives of children in foster care in Alabama.
This fall, Micah Melnick, executive director of the BigHouse Foundation, said BigHouse is choosing to focus on Kids’ Nights Out because families and foster kids said it was something they might want.
“It’s easier for families to get here for a big event,” Melnick said. “We’ll get around 50 kids from
infants to 18 at these events and we’re happy to have them.”
Melnick said the new focus on Kids’ Nights Out will not take away from BigHouse’s after-school offerings and tutoring sessions for children.
“We want kids to know we’re still here in the afternoons for homework from 3:30 to 4:45,” Melnick said. “We’re still offering tutoring as we can, and two kids are actually getting some off-site tutoring when they need it, which is a blessing.”
Over the summer, BigHouse hosted two summer camps for the kids: a science adventure camp for kindergartners through sixth graders that had swimming, science experiments with a teacher from Atlanta and time out at Storybook Farms; and a musical camp where the participants performed songs from “Down by the Creekbank.”
BigHouse’s Back to School Bash helped equip 40 kids with school supplies, clothes, haircuts and other back to school essentials.
The summer’s great triumph came in the form of BigHouse’s Swimsuit and Towel Drive, a initiative Melnick and her staff undertook to try to get a swimsuit and towel to any child in foster care in the state who requested one.
“3,421 kids made a request, and 3,421 requests were completed,” Melnick said. “No child who asked went without. We were happy to help provide that for those kids, but it was the people who donated who made that difference, brought that happiness to those children.”
61 out of Alabama’s 67 counties received towels and swimsuits from BigHouse’s drive. Melnick said BigHouse hopes to continue the drive next year.
“We hope more kids will send requests, and we pray we’ll be able to provide for everyone just like last year,” Melnick said.
Labor Day weekend, BigHouse was able to sponsor 10 families and a group of volunteers on a beach vacation to Panama City Beach.
Coach Kyle Pinckard’s AP US History class at Opelika High School recently partnered with BigHouse to collect donations and raise items for care packages for foster children.
Pinckard’s class met with Melnick and learned about a program that helps donate necessary items like toothpaste, hairbrushes, socks and underwear to foster children before they move into a new home.
The class encouraged other Opelika High students to participate and ended up donating enough materials to fill more than 25 bags to be donated.
BigHouse has been able to accomplish many things for children in foster care throughout the state, but the primary staff consists of two people: Melnick and fellow staffer Susannah Jones.
“We’re small but we’re trying to make a big impact,” Melnick said. “We do this because we love it. We want to grow and start moving toward doing more statewide, but we’re first going to make sure we reach each child in foster care we can in this area.”
BigHouse will hold a tailgate party and silent auction, the BigHouse of Blues, at the Greystone Mansion in Auburn Nov. 12 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tailgate tapas will be served and the football game will be “on the big screen” for any and all to enjoy.
For more information about the BigHouse Foundation or to find out how to volunteer, go to the foundation’s website at www.ourbighouse.org.