Contributed by The Alabama News Center
Written by Karim Shamsi-Basha
Social justice is one of the big motivators for Micah Melnick, executive director and founder of the BigHouse Foundation in Opelika.
“So many families are doing foster care because they believe in social justice, they want the kids to have the best opportunities,” Melnick said. “They don’t care of the background. Foster care is 24/7; you have to believe in the cause.”
Melnick and her staff embrace diversity, one of the hallmarks of foster care.
“We have already been engaged when it comes to social justice,” she said. “We have families that don’t look alike, and they learn from each other and we learn from them. They do life with each other. Diversity is one of the most beautiful things we have. We are focused on our mission of meeting the needs and improving the lives of children in foster care.”
Melnick and her staff accomplish this mission through many programs. They walk alongside the children and foster families, and through adoption when that is the case.
“We provide duffle bags with toiletries, socks and other necessities to new foster children and families,” Melnick said. “We support the families with a Clothes Closet, and an annual program where we make prom dresses. We throw a Back-to-School Bash. We give new backpacks. We hold Christmas events. This support is different every year. One year, we had many young kids, so we offered preschool programs.”
But the past year has been different due to COVID-19, which has affected the way the BigHouse Foundation operates but has not lessened the help it offers foster families, or the need for that help.
“COVID-19 has impacted the building-relationship side of BigHouse,” Melnick said. “We have had foster kids we’ve never seen. We are continuing Clothes Closet and baby items with masks and social distancing. One of the big results of the pandemic is not hosting Kids Night Out, but we are hopeful by May to have outdoor events.”
All of those programs require funding, and one of the big supporters of the BigHouse Foundation is the Alabama Power Foundation.
“We have had a wonderful relationship with the Alabama Power Foundation for several years,” Melnick said. “They have awarded us grants and are always helpful. During the COVID-19 crisis, there were many unknowns, but having Alabama Power Foundation along our side has been great. They helped with a grant for our Christmas event. It’s a very natural relationship and we love it.”
All of this positive work with BigHouse Foundation brings Melnick fulfillment.
“Doing my work with BigHouse Foundation, I feel I have a purpose to serve these families. Their story is what matters. We have hard days, and there is brokenness, but to get to serve and love these families, it’s very encouraging and fulfilling,” Melnick said.
New on the horizon is the planning and building of a new home on nine acres that the BigHouse Foundation has acquired. It will host families and children and hold community building and fundraising activities. Also during May, they will hold the BigHouse Hussle. More than 500 families have signed up for the fitness challenge, and they have raised more than $50,000.
To find out more or to donate, visit www.ourBigHouse.org.