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Hearts to Homes nonprofit helps young adults aging out of foster care system furnish their first homes

Nonprofit helps young adults furnish their first homes after foster care
Nonprofit helps young adults furnish their first homes after foster care 03:06

NEW YORK -- As we celebrate National Foster Care Month, we are highlighting a special nonprofit that started inside one woman's home seven years ago. 

Today, it has expanded into a program that has helped hundreds of young adults transition from foster care into their very own first homes.

Hearts to Homes is a volunteer-based organization that helps young adults who have recently aged out of the foster care system by providing essentials to furnish their new home. The help is a small way to make a big difference in the lives of those starting off with little family and few personal belongings.

The nonprofit has helped more than 450 young adults since Mary Theresa McCombe launched the program several years ago from her very own dining room in Westchester County.

"When we filled the first six apartments in the first year, it was at that point when we realized what we had was something we could scale up," McCombe said.

New York native Abby Johnson spent the majority of her life in the New York City foster care system. But when she moved into her very first apartment, Hearts to Homes provided her with the items she needed to turn her empty living space into a home.

"In homes, I had my own space, I had rooms, but I didn't have somewhere that I called my home," Johnson shared. "Hearts to Homes really made me calmer. Having my own space, it made me a little at ease and it was very, very relaxing."

The non-profit partners with 26 different youth agencies in the city to find those that need help, agencies such as Good Shepherd Services.

"We set our list, basically, to identify all the items that we probably would help our own children with when they were creating their first apartment," said McCombe.  

"It goes from this blank apartment, to them saying, 'Can we put the dishes in now? Can you help me put the sheets on the bed?'" Good Shepherd Services Coordinator Aurora Anderson said. "That delivery of those items is really like the first sense of comfort and, 'OK, now this is my home.' There is a sense of pride and accomplishment."

McCombe said they also work with those partners to provide full-circle assistance, such as job training, mentoring and financial literacy. Although she emphasized the goal of creating a more comfortable living environment works against major setbacks these young adults often face, such as multi-generational foster care, incarceration or homelessness.

"I did not anticipate, for example, that a nonprofit organization would be able to make the impact that it has," McCombe said. "Last week, we hit a new milestone -- we provided over $1 million dollars in furnishings to young people aging out of foster care in this area."

"I feel very expressive now. I get to be who I want to be in my own space," said Johnson.

If you'd like to find out how to get involved with Hearts to Homes, whether as a donor or a recipient, you can find more information on their website. CLICK HERE to learn more. 

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