Featured Alumni

Crummer Grad Starts Nonprofit to Help Foster Families

Located in Central Florida, Legacy’s Gift provides a range of supplies to ensure foster children have what they need to thrive in their new homes.

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

After a decade of unsuccessfully trying to conceive and several devastating miscarriages, Ashley Call ’09MBA and her husband, Jeff ’08H, felt called to foster children.

“There are so many children who need a permanent and stable home,” said Call. “They need constant food and consistent schedules. They need positive influences in their lives. All of which we can—and want to—provide.”

In 2018, they began the process of becoming foster parents—and then a miracle happened. While in the middle of doing their home study, Call discovered she was pregnant with their son, who is now two and a half.

“They asked us to take a year off after our son was born to ensure that we wanted to foster after having a biological child,” Call said. “We did wait the year, and then COVID happened, which pushed us a little bit later. But we still had the desire in our hearts to foster.”

Knowing they wanted to foster an infant, they kept everything from when their biological son was a baby. And in May 2021, they were finally able to become licensed foster parents and welcomed their first foster child, Legacy, into their home.

Though she only stayed with them for a little over two months, Legacy proved to have an auspicious name. She would become the inspiration for a nonprofit Call started to help set up foster families for success.

The idea behind Legacy’s Gift is simple: To provide foster families with supplies to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for the children they welcome into their homes.

Foster parents try to prepare as best as possible, so that when a child arrives, they have everything he or she needs. But oftentimes, they have no time to prepare for what a specific child needs. All details about the children—including what items they may or may not bring with them—remain confidential until the last minute to protect their privacy as well as the privacy of their biological families and previous foster families. And community services are often not available for several days after the placement.

“I’m sure you’ve heard the story of children arriving with a garbage bag with their stuff in it. That is kind of how it goes,” said the foster parent who is currently fostering Legacy—and who asked not to use her name out of concern for privacy. “Sometimes, they’re coming in with absolutely nothing. As the foster parent, you have to basically do a late-night Walmart run and get the basic needs to be able to get to the next day when you can go out and get more. Being able to call an organization like Legacy’s Gift, give them all the specifics about the child, and have them bring it to you is great because there’s just so much going on in that moment. Your entire family dynamic has just changed within moments.”

Started earlier this year, Legacy’s Gift has already provided items to 24 foster kids mostly in Florida, where the organization is based, but also as far as Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The items change based on the specific child’s needs, but have included everything from diapers, formula, and even a crib for infants to backpacks, school supplies, clothes, and shoes for older children. The company has also organized events, such as working with a local saloon, Empire Hair and Beauty Salon, to provide haircuts for children in foster care in preparation for the new school year.

“Every situation’s different, and every child’s different,” Call said. “That’s why our focus is not on sending a specific package. Our focus is really on supporting those who need it, and sometimes it’s not wrapped in a package. Sometimes it’s custom.”

One of the first packages Legacy’s Gift delivered was for Legacy herself.

“Once it was decided that Legacy would live with us, Ashley and Jeff gave us a gift basket that was an infant tub filled with everything you would need for a little one,” said Legacy’s current foster parent, who has become friends with Call. “I mean everything from diapers to wipes to clothes. It’s very encouraging to receive something like that, to know that you’re supported in what you’re doing, that the children are being supported, and that there is a community that cares. It means one less thing you have to worry about—instead, you can focus on getting the child acquainted to your family.”

In foster care, the goal is to keep children as close to family as possible. If they can’t be placed with a relative, the State will try to place them in the same home with siblings. If they can’t place the child directly with a sibling, they try to place him or her nearby.

Legacy’s current foster parents fostered and adopted Legacy’s older sister when she was an infant. The sister—whose named is being omitted for privacy concerns—began asking for a baby sister when she was two and a half.

At the time, Legacy was living with Call, and both families knew it would be in her best interest to live with her sister. That’s not to say the decision wasn’t heartbreaking for Call.

“I can’t say fostering has been easy,” she said. “In our scenario with Legacy, we knew that she wasn’t going to be with us long term. Our partners at Embrace Families and Guardian ad Litem were very honest with us. It was hard because we were coming out of so many miscarriages and coming out of wanting to build our family, but my husband and I both knew why we were doing this, so when she left, I was at peace.”

Part of that peace came from seeing Smith’s daughter’s reaction upon seeing her sister for the first time. Both Call and Smith recall her holding Legacy, smiling, and saying, “She looks just like me.”

The Calls are now fostering a young boy, who came to them two days after Legacy left. After 20 years of working at Disney, Call accepted the position of director of business integration at the Central Florida YMCA, so she can be closer to home and her family. She’s hoping to grow Legacy’s Gift to provide more items to foster families in need and credits her MBA with helping her start and manage Legacy’s Gift while working full-time and being a mom.

“I think without my training and getting my Masters of Business Administration from Crummer, I wouldn’t have the inspiration or the knowledge to open up a 501(c)(3) organization,” she said. “In the long term, it has helped me with planning, partnerships, communication, and effective messaging.”

As for Legacy?

“She’s doing great,” Call said. “She’s still got that same great big smile that we fell in love with when she was with us. She was a very, very small baby when she came to us, and she’s just blossomed—which is so great to see.”