by Ashley Bennett, Director of Trauma-Informed Care
Restore Network has been working in St. Clair county for 5 YEARS! I cannot believe it has already been that long and yet for me, it seems like a lifetime in the making. When I started taking children into my home in 2012, I was the only person in my social circle to do so. I had no one else to look to, no one to follow. The isolation that it caused was profound and I remember thinking, this isn’t how it should be, there’s got to be another way. During that season, a vision began to stir in me of a community of God’s people working together to bring healing to His children and wrapping support around foster families. Soon thereafter, I formed a resource closet at the Journey Church in Belleville. It was a small but necessary step to begin to show up for the foster families and child welfare agencies in St. Clair County.
It was during this time, that I began to research what it would look like to grow this ministry into something even bigger than a closet. One timely google search landed me at the website of something called, “The Restore Network,” a church-based ministry working out of Madison County. Looking through the information, it seemed we shared similar visions for God’s people in foster care and so I took a moment to email someone named Katie Myette, “Hey, you’re doing in Madison what I want to do in St. Clair. Can we talk?”
And the rest is basically history. A Panera lunch turned into more conversations which turned into the first replication of the ministry. We didn’t much know back then how far God would grow us, but we knew He was on the move.
Finding Restore was an answer to prayer, not just for me but for all families that would follow after me. I count it a privilege that St. Clair was the first county to launch after Madison paved the way. We have the largest number of children in foster care here. And because of that, God’s people in St. Clair county have the opportunity to do something really BIG. I cannot wait to see where we are at in another 5 years. While I serve in another role at Restore now, and no longer serve as the Director in St. Clair, my heart will always be here. You are my people. And I am incredibly proud of all the brave things we have done together these past 5 years.