A surprise volunteer opportunity gave one 13-year-old boy a chance to help keep another 13-year-old boy out of foster care. 

It all started at the Taste of Summer Charity Barbecue on July 20th. 

That week's barbecue was in support of Safe Families Steinbach. Director Michelle Peters says she was approached by a mom who, in a spot of desperation, asked for help de-cluttering her family's home as she had received a letter from her landlord citing fire-safety issues. 

“She had been in a situation where she had been struggling, lots of anxiety, the clutter just sort of gradually piled up to a point where she would look at it and just be completely overwhelmed and not know where to start. So, she was fully expecting that she would get evicted.” 

If evicted, this mom in need said she could live in her van, and her daughter could live with a relative, but she was worried she would have to voluntarily place her 13-year-old son in foster care because she had no other options for him. 

Of course, Peters says the answer was an emphatic yes! 

“This is such a simple thing and this is something we do! We’ve got a family in crisis, we have a mom who is at her lowest point and she just wants to keep the family together and supported.” 

As a disclaimer, Peters says CFS would not apprehend a child over clutter, however, these small situations can sometimes snowball out of control and have serious consequences. 

Peters notes they got a small group of volunteers together to help out. 

“One was a 13-year-old boy who came along to provide some muscle and he was just glowing at the end of the day. He was like ‘you know, I really didn’t want to come, I really didn’t want to volunteer, but that was so satisfying. Especially knowing that I am helping to improve the life of this family.” 

Peters says the two boys who had never met spent a few hours cleaning and hauling boxes of to-be-donated items to the volunteer's minivan. 

As a result, this mom in distress won’t need to contemplate putting her child into foster care.  

This is exactly what Safe Families Steinbach is all about. Peters says “we strive to put in the relationships, the people power, build that safety network, get a family through the crisis and then often, the family is up and running again on their own.” 

Peters adds it benefits everyone involved.  

“Even though we have been in the home with this mom, getting sweaty, moving lots of stuff, and doing lots of hard work, it was fun. This mom has a great sense of humour and it has been a blast. Volunteering and connecting with other people just has such a huge reward, not only for people on the receiving end but also for those who are volunteering.” 

And, according to Peters, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the fact that they were on Main Street in Steinbach for the Taste of Summer Charity Barbecue.