By Todd Travis
Some of us find passion in our careers. Others may spend a few hours a week volunteering for their favorite cause. Our ICON of the Year, Renae Furnee, has spent up to 60 hours a week and contributed resources uncompensated over the years for the simple joy in helping foster families.
A lifelong passion for children
Furnee has always had a heart for children. Even from a young age she had plans to foster when the timing was right. When that time finally came, she was met with more difficult challenges than she had imagined.
“We did not have a good foster experience. We were confused by the system and how things work and why things happened the way they did. So we decided not to foster anymore,” Furnee recalled.
However, she did not give up to help foster children and connected with Resources of Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources to meet the physical and emotional needs of foster youth living in Central Indiana.
Helping with a different approach
“We got in touch with Resources of Hope through a training they were doing, and I thought, ‘Wow, what a great organization.’ They had not moved into a building yet, they were helping foster parents from their garage, and I decided I really wanted to do something in foster care even if I couldn’t foster,” Furnee shared.
She began volunteering to help run the clothing closet, then helped with the organization’s growth by working as a volunteer coordinator. Eventually she became Teen Connect director. Finally, she ended up taking over the executive director position, which she still holds today.
Having the right tools
Furnee is no stranger to running a business; she and her husband owned a consulting firm in the printing industry for eight years which gave her the skill set needed to be the Resources of Hope executive director. She was also simultaneously doing in-home daycare, advancing her local MOMS Club, and serving as treasurer at her HOA. Her passion to help children has become the culmination of her early dreams.
Seeing the joy
“We have so many different programs, but when I’m in the clothing closet and a foster kiddo comes in with their foster parent, to see the joy and happiness that a foster child has on their face when they come in and look at our items … they’re not used, ripped-stained, super-worn clothing. We do accept gently used clothing, but we’re pretty picky about what we put out there. So to see that joy on the foster child’s face is what I love,” Furnee said.
“They can come in and get a stuffed animal. Most of the times when kids are removed from a home, they are not allowed to take any of their toys – their favorite stuffy or their favorite blanket. So we’re able to provide a stuffed animal and a blanket. Those little items mean a lot to a kiddo. Especially one who’s been through trauma and then are also dealing with the trauma of being removed from what they know as their home,” she continued.
A selfless example
The unique twist to Furnee’s involvement with Resources of Hope is that until recently, the countless hours of work that she put into the organization were all unpaid. Her compensation was the joy she received from helping these foster families.
“Obviously, she’s very passionate because she’s volunteered with us for so long. She was volunteering 50-60 hours a week as our executive director for around two years before we hired her on – I mean, incredible dedication and passion there to just support and serve others,” said Summer Huber, founder and board president for Resources of Hope.
“There’s been times where Renae has been working in our clothing closet and we’ve had a parent coming in who was just having a really rough time, and Renae embraced that parent, and they would just break down in tears knowing that someone understood what they were walking through. So that compassion and gentleness of support that Renae has provided so many of our families help them feel so safe to share in the troubles, but also share in the excitement that comes with the kids learning and growing,” Huber added.
For more information about Resources of Hope, call (317) 300-4757 or go to resourcesofhope.org