When Kim Shelby first heard about Man Up and Go (2650 S. Francis Dr., Brookline; 727-266-0226), she never imagined how impactful their services would be for her family. The foster mother of 7 and 9-year-old boys says their service has been invaluable. “It’s the emotional and physical support. It’s big because I know that I can call and they will be there. Another cool thing is once you are on their list, they don’t kick you off,” Shelby says. Man Up has supported her family for four years, during which they replaced her washer for free, put up a privacy fence and helped with yard work. During projects, they are careful to include the children, teaching and encouraging them through each step.
Volunteers initiate contact, and are dedicated to checking in with families to offer tailored support to each family they adopt. “They are always calling or texting to check if there is anything I need. I hadn’t thought about that as being something,” she says.
Who They Are
Tim McConville, Springfield’s Regional Development Coordinator, shared the organization’s goal. In Springfield, Man Up focuses primarily on their Adopt a Family program, offering wrap-around services from August to May, for foster families in need of support. Volunteers bring a meal once a month, help around the house with minor repairs and partner with parents to spend time with the kids at events. “Fostering kids is hard, there is so much that’s involved in what you have to do with those kids, so we want to come alongside these families and help however we can,” says McConville.
Volunteers also focus on being role models to the kids. “We are trying to let these kids know that there are some good guys out there,” McConville says. “Men that are different from the experiences they had growing up.” The organization operates under the belief that when men are engaged with families, they have the potential to transform lives and inspire others to follow suit.
When asked how Man Up and Go has impacted Springfield, McConville shared that their biggest impact has been raising awareness on what foster kids go through. He explains that the biggest barrier to people engaging with foster families is a lack of awareness. “I don’t think a lot of people understand what foster kids go through,” he says. “The stories I hear, it just breaks your heart to see what kids deal with. It’s not fair to them at all.”
As the organization works to connect volunteers with roles that suit their skills, Man Up and Go continues to expand their services. They have recently implemented a mentorship program that allows teenagers to engage with volunteers directly to build relationships, mentorship and healthy interactions. “It’s not a structured, classroom, sit-down kind of thing. It’s just hanging out, eating dinner, playing football and connecting with those kids again,” McConville says.
Anyone with a heart for supporting foster kids is welcome to apply for volunteer positions and begin to directly assist local foster families. Visit the website for more information. Being a small group, Man Up relies on locals to channel their inner passion for Springfield’s youth and step up to support the foster community.