Heart to Heart – We Rise by lifting others
by Karen Coney Coplin
Among other things, Naples is an affluent resort town. Amid the sea of plenty, there are people – families – in crisis and emergency situations. Fran Bratcher, who launched the Family to Family organization over a decade ago, has personally attended to hundreds of local clients who receive items of necessity at the time of need.
If you haven’t heard of Family to Family, you’re invited to see how you might be inspired to help. They step in to assist foster care families, grandparents who become primary caregivers to their grandchildren; abuse victims typically starting over with nothing and families in crisis situations including illness, death, fire, flood or storm damage.
When I first wrote about this organization in 2011, Fran told me a primary mission was simple: “Getting kids off the floor and into beds.” Naturally, beds and bedding are critical to their mission. In the instance of grandparents who suddenly step into a primary parenting role, however, more than beds are essential: car seats, other baby gear, plastic dinnerware, and toys are instantly needed.
In cases like this and many other cases, notes Fran, bunk or twin beds are especially welcome as space is at a premium.
Family to Family’s mission has ripple effects in our community. For people who are starting over after a period of crisis or shock -having necessary home products and furniture helps repair self esteem and provide a sense of worth and belonging. Clients report they feel they can provide for their families and provide well – and use monies which might otherwise be expended on furnishings, etc. for food, gas and medical expenses.
Many heartwarming success stories have come from this organization. To mention only a few, one client became a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, then, moved into another larger home as part of this scenario, her home was sold back to Habitat for use by another of their clients. One mom of five is now in medical school. Several nursing students are clients. Some of these womenwere at one point homeless.
How is Family to Family different from other shops which collect donations for charities? Their clients shop at no charge – as do their kids.
There are no salaries at Family to Family. It’s a donor dependent and exclusively volunteer run organization. Fran Bratcher jokes they were the original “green” organization because there is no waste – surplus items go to Immokalee, local missions, and for local clients to share with others in need. Also, Family to Family has a policy of always helping in emergency situations – as attested to by their very active Facebook page interactions. Feel free to “like” and “share” and “follow” this group, please!
Direct giving is also encouraged. Many times, furniture donations leave a donor’s home and go directly to the recipient. As Family to Family is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so donations are always tax deductible.
How can you help Family to Family and our community? Donations areaways welcome – to keep their doors open and lights on. Rent for their space is $1,900/month; utilities about $150 on average. Insurance is just under $1,000/year. Though she’s careful what she wishes for, Fran does dream of an air conditioned storage unit to stockpile beds – this would be a donation of about $135/month or is any generous reader ready to help out for a year? That’s just$1,620. No donation is too small, however.
Volunteers at the Kids’ Crisis Closet are also welcome. It’s presently open three days a week. Other donors have met clients for pick up and delivery of beds. Gift cards for gas especially as prices are rising are always appreciated.
Family to Family is located at 4750 Enterprise Ave, # 101, in Naples. Hours of operation for clients and volunteers are: Monday,10 a.m. – 1 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m; and Friday 10 a.m. -1p.m. Other times by appointment and for emergencies. Email Fran at: email@example.com.
Karen Coney Coplin can be reached at NaplesKCC@gmail.com for comments or article ideas. Follow her on Instagram @Naplesbythenumbers.
Items of Necessity
Family to Family list of “Most Welcome Items
of Necessity” for families starting over:
- Kitchen items. Pots & pans, blenders, microwaves, coffee pots, toaster items, bake ware, silverware, and utensils.
- Bath items. Shower curtains, bath mats, towels – “the latter always needed!”
- Small Electric Fans.
- Bedrooms. Yes – beds + bedding. Pillows, blankets, comforters. Fran reports that nearly 5,000 kids and family members are now sleeping in beds thanks to good people who have helped Family to Family’s mission.
- Area rugs.
I have been to frans “shop of wonders” as that is the only way to explain the shop….i came across country to escape abuse with only two kids and one bag a peice…i had felt broken with no place to go we were homeless for a bit until we got in to our very empty apt…… it felt like a miracle when I found family to family kids crisis closet I had absolutely nothing and here is this little teeny giant telling me get more get more….it was overwhelming I had never had a place help so much…we got beds tv’s dishes chairs and just about a home full to help my family start our new life I truly believe if anyone can create miracles fran absolutely can
Fran is an amazing woman. Family to Family Kids Crisis Closet has helped me when I took in my grandkids, helped when I took in a homeless woman, helped when I took in an abused mother and her children. They have even been able to help with some of the animals I have taken in.
School Uniforms, Birthday and Christmas presents. The organization Fran has created is amazing
BTW – putting 5,000 people into beds of their own was the number Fran had when she quit counting, about five years ago! Yes, even though Collier County is considered a wealthy, resort destination, there is still never-ending need. There are so many ways the community can become a part of this grassroots, completely green effort to help the neediest among us: Christmas season is always a great reason to “adopt” a family – that could mean anything from sending an envelope full of gift cards to hosting a tree-buying excursion and providing “Santa” for the whole family. One senior community even sponsored a holiday dinner, with turkey and all the fixings, so its residents could meet and socialize with their adopted families, thanks to Family to Family/Kids Crisis Closet. Fran, and her handful of loyal volunteers, have done miracles helping victims of fire, flood, domestic abuse, job loss, birth defect and so much more. If you need joy in your life – donate and/or volunteer. You’ll be ecstatic that you did!