Free Arts is going statewide! In our largest initiative to date, we plan to provide 5,000 Bravery Boxes to children in foster care throughout the state of Arizona. That means when a child enters foster care, they will receive their very own Bravery Box of art supplies and intentional art activities that are designed to help children process their trauma and build resilience.
Now, this may sound like a crazy move during a pandemic. Rest assured, there is a method to the madness.
Within a week of having to shut down due to COVID-19 back in March, Free Arts was already planning new alternative programming. Talk about resilience! We launched a video series online. We hosted community calls for foster care staff. We even figured out a way to bring our programs to children while practicing social distancing.
One of these alternative programs was called “Ready-To-Go Projects”. We delivered art supplies and instructions to facilities, everything partner agencies needed to run our activities themselves, and the results were incredible. Even without Free Arts’ infrastructure, facility staff still saw positive changes in the children who participated. It was a wonderful sign that there were new ways to benefit children from a distance.
So, we ran with it. With COVID-19 we needed innovative ways to reach the children we serve. In fact, our five-year strategic plan already included a goal to expand our services statewide. Thus, the Bravery Box Project was born…
…and stumbled in its first steps. Plans began in July with a launch date in September. However, the pandemic disrupted supply chains and severely delayed deliveries, causing challenges in sourcing and purchasing large quantities of art supplies. Slowly but surely, we finally gathered the materials and funding to launch 5,000 Bravery Boxes for December. Resilience strikes again!
The next step was assembling the boxes. Luckily, our volunteer base was eager to help, especially when given remote options. We prepared assembly kits, including everything needed to put together 50 Bravery Boxes in each, that volunteers could pick up and use to package the boxes at home. Then we announced the need for volunteers to individuals and groups, including Desert Financial Credit Union and National Charity League. We were quickly flooded with volunteer interest, and all the assembly kits were reserved within three days! We were blown away by the incredible show of support.
Starting November 9th, volunteers came to the Free Arts office to pick up their assembly kits and returned their completed boxes by November 30th. The entire month was a whirlwind of happy visitors and so much gratitude. Every “thank you” from Free Arts staff was reciprocated with a “thank you” from a volunteer who appreciated the opportunity to help a good cause during difficult times.
We now have 5,000 Bravery Boxes ready to ship from the Free Arts office. Delivery is the next challenge. Conversations with the Department of Child Safety and potential corporate sponsors will hopefully result in coverage of the cost of distribution in time for the holidays. That means 5,000 children in foster care will soon have the tools to develop healthy coping skills while experiencing the additional trauma of a pandemic.