By Lindsey Shelton, The Crimson White, Apr 30, 2009 --
There are over 5,000 children in foster care in Alabama, and many of those children do not receive the typical opportunities that children in a traditional family environment might receive. One upcoming UA graduate is hoping to give those opportunities to foster children in Alabama. Micah Melnick, a senior majoring in art and human development, is the founder of the BigHouse Foundation. BigHouse is a non-profit organization in Lee County designed to meet the needs and improve the quality of life for children in foster care and work to give the children experiences that they would normally receive during a “typical childhood,” according to the Web site. The organization will provide art and music lessons, dance classes, sports instruction, haircuts, money for school trips, school yearbooks, birthday parties, summer camps and family vacations. Volunteers will also provide tutoring, and BigHouse has a clothes closet to provide seasonal wardrobes for children in foster care.
Melnick said she wanted to start her BigHouse organization because her parents had foster children and she saw how little money and supplies the children were given from the government. When her parents’ friends and community in Lee County realized the needs of her parents’ foster children, she said they were more than willing to send over anything they could give to the children. Melnick’s church also built a small playground in her parents’ backyard. “It was like they were saying, ‘You’re giving up your life to take care of these kids, so we’re going to support you.’ We just wanted to make that possible for all foster families,” she said. Melnick said the bulk of BigHouse’s funding will come from donations. She said she would also like to have big fundraising events with corporate sponsors in the future. Melnick’s friends also assisted her in getting everything together for BigHouse. Leah Tollison, a junior majoring in secondary education, went with several others to Lee County to work on the BigHouse home during spring break. “Being involved in BigHouse from the ground up has given me such a unique perspective,” Tollison said. “BigHouse means so much to me because I have seen the heart Micah and Blake have put into creating it.
I started out wanting to help them because they are my friends, but I fell in love with their idea, the passion behind it and all the foster children in Lee County who will benefit from this outpouring of love.” Blake Melnick, Micah’s husband, said foster children are often overlooked because people sometimes cannot talk about their personal stories due to privacy concerns. “We want to be able to give a face to foster care,” Micah added. “By donating to BigHouse, people know that it is going to those children, even if we don’t point the child out.” Melnick’s next goal is to get a BigHouse in every county in Alabama. She said she would love for there to eventually be a BigHouse in every state. “We want to have a place where kids come and they have someone who knows their name, reads to them and just hangs out with them,” Melnick said. “So that when they graduate or are emancipated from foster care, they will have somewhere to come back to that they feel is their home.” BigHouse is having a swimsuit and beach towel drive until May 31. To contribute to the drive, people are asked to bring a new child’s swimsuit and/or beach towel to the Wesley Foundation at 505 Ninth St. in Tuscaloosa. All donations will be given to children in Lee County. Big House will also have a pool party for the children to kick off the summer.
For more information on the BigHouse foundation, visit www.ourbighouse.org. Original Article, The Crimson White, retrieved on April 30, 2009