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When planning their upcoming wedding, Joe Martin and Sandi Britton decided they didn’t need any crystal, dinnerware sets or gift cards. Instead, they pondered how the money for those marital presents might benefit local foster children. They’ve since voiced that request to friends and family, meaning more donations are rolling into Least of These Gaston on their behalf. Formed earlier this year, the nonprofit provides emergency money, supplies and support for area foster parents, bolstering the efforts of social service workers.
“The fact that they would do that was humbling,” said Susanna Kavanaugh, co-founder and executive director of the group, who is also a local foster parent. “We were kind of floored by their offer, to be quite honest.”
Britton and Martin, who’ve known each other 15 years, are both from Dallas and now live in Lincolnton. Their big day is Oct. 19.Neither of them have any personal experience with the foster care system, but both have worked around children. Britton teaches gymnastics and Martin has given martial arts lessons in the past.As their wedding began drawing closer, they realized it would be pointless for people to give them a huge number of traditional gifts they didn’t have any use for. “We’ve just been very fortunate in our lives and received many blessings,” Britton said. “There was nothing we really needed, and we felt like there were other people out there who were much more in need than we were.”
Britton said she’s always had a special place in her heart for children who go through foster care. A friend who serves as a Gaston County foster parent told her about the Least of These, which takes its name from the Bible. Whether foster parents care for children through DSS or another private agency, they typically receive a stipend of some sort for their work. But that doesn’t usually cover everything that helps to enrich a young person’s life. There’s seldom state money available for non-essential things such as prom dresses or braces. In addition to raising money to help in those situations, Least of These Gaston also meets more urgent needs. DSS workers must often seize custody of children in an emergency and place them in a foster home that hasn’t been fully equipped with supplies to ease the transition. The nonprofit partners with Hope 4 Gaston’s Closet of Hope to have a constant supply of pajamas, diapers, clothing, child car seats and other goods that may be needed at the drop of a hat.
Britton said she and her fiancée were lucky enough to grow up in supportive families. They learned what it means to be in a stable environment where children can develop self-esteem and a hard work ethic, with adults to look up to. “As we’ve been teaching and working with kids, we saw how important it was to make a difference in their lives,” she said. Least of These Gaston’s nonprofit status was recently certified, which will open the door to it pursuing larger grants and growing. “Things are going well,” Kavanaugh said.
They have set up a link on their website,www.LeastOfTheseGaston.org, where people can make monetary donations in the name of Britton and Martin. “It was very surprising,” Kavanaugh said of their overture. “Because that’s just very selfless to do and it’s hard to come by these days.” For more information on donating or volunteering for the nonprofit, contact Kavanaugh at 704-616-5172.You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or twitter.com/GazetteMike.