ForKids stunned by Kroger’s support

Published 10:02 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Kroger on Main Street delivered a pleasant surprise to the ForKids Suffolk Regional Services Center.

Store Manager Donati High and his associates arrived at their 9 a.m. appointment on Wednesday morning at the West Constance Road facility. They brought roses, cake, balloons and $1,000 in Kroger gift cards.

Senior Family Case Manager Lisa Ellsworth knew about their appointment but had no idea they would bring a sizable surprise. She said that the gift cards will likely be spent on their food pantry, which took a hit during the government shutdown.

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“This was incredibly generous,” Ellsworth told the Kroger team. “The fact that you guys thought about us and surprise attacked me — that doesn’t happen very often. I really loved it, and the kids are going to love that cake.”

ForKids was one of seven local nonprofits that were each surprised with $1,000 in Kroger gift cards on Wednesday. It was part of Kroger Mid-Atlantic’s area-wide celebration that began in January, after seven new stores were opened in Hampton Roads and $62,000 in community donations were collected, according to the press release.

Kroger’s “Zero Hunger | Zero Waste” initiative — a national effort to end hunger in communities that Kroger calls home and to eliminate waste across the company by 2025 — guided the donations, and local associates chose which organizations to support.

“We’re hoping that this is the first of many long partnerships, and that we both can impact the community in the Suffolk area,” High said.

The Kroger team then got to tour the 7,000-square-foot building and hear how the center is helping families in Suffolk, Smithfield and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

ForKids is one of the largest providers for homeless families in Virginia. According to Ellsworth, they support roughly 40 families in the Western Tidewater area, and close to 200 across the entire region.

“We serve roughly 800 families a year as an agency, and we touch tens of thousands,” she said. “Because once a ForKids family, always a ForKids family.”

She said they wanted a place that would make the kids smile, from the bright and warm colors of the interior, down to the playful jokes written on the furniture.

This is where children are able to get a hot meal after school five nights a week and where parents can get a book to take home for their kids or watch them bounce around the outdoor playground, which is expected to be further improved with adult-sized benches, Ellsworth said.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to get all your wiggles out before you can do your homework,” she said.

ForKids has partnered with more than 100 different camps across roughly half-a-dozen states, she said, and children ages 5 and up can sign up for free with all the equipment they need.

Their families are provided with licensed education advocates and resource specialists. There are resources for adults to improve their resumes and interviewing skills, and for high school seniors to fill out college applications.

Donations allow the organization to distribute essentials like toiletries. Clients can even schedule times to do laundry, if need be. They enjoy free holiday shopping sprees and receive Thanksgiving baskets and school supplies.

“We make sure that all of our families have all the services that they need to overcome any barriers that are in their way,” Ellsworth said.

Their services left a lasting impression on the Kroger team.

“I didn’t realize the scope of what they do is that broad (and) that big,” High said. “We’re definitely glad to support that effort and we look forward to doing more in the future.”