Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents’ quality of life.
JAY — Four years after the team at My Father’s Arrows set out to provide licensed community homes for local children in need, the plan is becoming a reality. The first wing of Mama’s House is officially open, and the second wing is nearly done, according to MFA founder Sarah Ellis.
“We are very excited, because four long years of hard work,” Ellis said. “It’s pretty surreal to know we finally accomplished what we set out to do.”
Each wing will have a set of licensed foster parents. The current capacity in the completed portion of Mama’s House is 13 children. However, the number can vary depending on several factors, including the needs of the children and house parents and the licensing agency that oversees the house parents.
“The main thing we want people to know is that we’re not an orphanage. We’re not a group home,” Anica Padgett, press director for MFA, said. “We are a foster-supportive entity and we are a community.”
According to Padgett, the organization plans to expand as much as possible. Therefore, nobody is sure how many wings the home will have total.
“In the future, who knows how many wings we will have?” Padgett said. “We have two and I think there’s a plan to finish two more.”
There are no restrictions on the children MFA will take in, but they are a home that’s supportive enough that they can take in children that are more difficult to place in foster homes, such as large sibling groups.
“The whole goal of Mama’s House was to provide a supportive community so that we could provide more beds for hard-to-place children,” Padgett said.
In the home, boys and girls have separate sleeping areas. In addition to the private areas, there are large common spaces such as a gathering room, dining area, play room, library and a therapeutic area for children with sensory issues.
“We are so excited,” Padgett said. “We haven’t determined the exact date for a grand opening and in the future we will have an open house.”
Once the front wings of Mama’s House are complete, MFA plans to invite the community in to see the home they have created.
My Father’s Arrows, founded in 2014, is a faith-based public charity that works to meet the unmet needs of vulnerable children in Northwest Florida and Southern Alabama, according to its website.
The founders have a combined total of 44 years as foster parents and in-service with special-needs children. They regularly recruit caregivers, volunteers and advocates for the children and educate the community on the children’s needs.
Funding for their mission comes from donors, community partners and their Milton thrift store at 6606 Elva St. in Milton. Foster parents, Guardian ad Litem volunteers, case managers or investigators are welcome to the thrift store at any time with documentation to get anything they need for the children free of charge.
“We also use the donations to furnish the first apartments of the youth who age out of foster care without being adopted,” the website said. “In short, the donated items are either given to the children and youth directly, or sold in order to be able to provide for them indirectly.”