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OLATHE, Kan. — A restaurant in Olathe is doing more than selling chicken. They’re helping foster kids get their first cars.
But it’s not just them. Their customers and the teens themselves are making it possible.
When you turn the key to your first car, it sounds a little sweeter. Eighteen-year-old Brianna Simms is grateful for her 2009 Toyota Camry.
“It makes me feel like an adult,” Simms said. “Being able to go and do things without having to rely on other people, it makes me feel useful for myself.”
Simms spent three years in foster care and recently aged out. She’s going to college full time at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College, studying to be an EMT, and also works at Walmart to pay her bills.
“It took a lot of work to get where we are now,” Simms said.
She got a car with the help of YOUTHrive, an organization mentoring and helping foster kids learn financial planning.
They offer foster teens courses to help them learn budgeting and saving money. Part of the class is having a job and saving money toward a car, rent or even a computer.
Tim Gay, the founder & executive director of YOUTHrive, said this helps them get a hand up to creating an independent life.
“We’re teaching them how to budget their money and how to save their money,” Gay said. “So hopefully they’re learning that life skill that they need to save money on a regular basis.”
“This was a perfect fit,” said Todd Thompson, the owner of Strip’s Chicken in Olathe. “We ask every person that comes in whether they want to round up a hug for foster kids, and we match those donations.”
Nichole Reusch works at Strip’s and asks each customer in the drive-thru if they will round up their bill for the program. Her mother fostered children and grew up knowing many foster kids.
“It means a lot,” Reusch said. “It’s nice to know that there are still good people who want to help.”
Customers donate their change, sometimes even more, and Strip’s matches it. Brianna saved up half of the cost of the car herself by following YOUTHrive’s program.
“It was very exciting to finally be able to drive and be able to say I own something so big and special that a lot of people don’t get,” Simms said.
“They’re so excited! You can see the joy in their eyes,” Thompson said. “I think it provides them a peace of mind, that they’re loved, that people are caring about the success of their future.”
All the money raised at Strip’s goes to help kids in Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas counties. Thompson said over the past few years, they’ve raised around $15,000 with the help of customers. It’s gone to helping 13 foster teens get vehicles.
Thompson said they’re planning to open a second location in KCMO’s Waldo neighborhood, and they’re planning to do a similar program for kids on the Missouri side.
If you are a business and want to help foster teens, Gay said you can also work with them on matching donations. They are also always looking for mentors to work with foster youth through their MyPath program.