The reasons youngsters end up in foster care hardly paint a pretty picture of our society: abuse, neglect, addiction, abandonment.
But a Springfield-area nonprofit is using pretty pictures to help foster kids throughout Sangamon County.
Artsy: An Art Fair for Kids in Care! is an annual event where art donated by local professionals and amateurs is sold to raise money for foster families in Sangamon County. The event, which will feature the work of both children and adults, will be held Feb. 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Pharmacy, 623 Adams St., Springfield.
The event began six years ago with a 4-year-old reading a book.
"It kind of evolved out of one of our youngest supporters; her name is Hollis Snyder," said Olivia Hayse, the incoming executive director of the James Project. "When she was 4 years old, she read this book about a girl called Fancy Nancy, and Fancy Nancy decided to have an art show to make money for something she wanted."
"Hollis had just heard about the James Project at the church she goes to and heard that kids she didn't know didn't have beds that they could sleep in. So, she raised money for a bed mattress for a foster kiddo. Hollis thought, 'Oh, I'm going to take my art and I'll make an art show like Fancy Nancy did. But I'll give all the money to the James Project.'"
The James Project is a ministry supported by about a dozen churches that is named after the Bible verse James 1:27 which says: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
The James Project currently provides five foster families with houses to live in at no cost. Since 2014, the ministry has helped 78 foster children. They also provide clothes, toiletries, beds, diapers and other items for foster families. The James Project also pays for enrichment activities for foster kids, such as gymnastics, karate and piano lessons.
There won't be price tags on the various pieces of art. Patrons are expected to make a donation if they want to take a particular piece home.
"It's all donation-based. We get sponsorships with different organizations in Springfield, which help fund the event," Hayse said. "So, every penny that we get goes straight back to the families that we support or to operation costs for The Closet that serves all the foster kids in Sangamon County."
The Closet, which is one of the James Project's branches of ministry, provides new and gently used clothes for any of the county's 625 foster kids.
"Typically, the fundraiser raises between $8,000 to $10,000," Hayse said. "It's not huge for us, but it's a great way to get the community involved in our mission and in our vision. When Hollis would do her art show, she would get something like $1,000."
Hollis Snyder, now 10, plans to be a part of the February event and sell some of her work.
"It's a great honor that they created this whole art fundraiser because of a book I read and an idea that we had. So, I think that's really cool. And it's also fun that money is going to kids in need. I'm really lucky. I have a bed and a family and lots of food, but some kids don't have that. So, it's nice to raise money for those people."
Scott Reeder, an Illinois Times staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.