By: Leslie Battiste – June 2004
How did you become involve in the Ukraine ministry and what prompted you to start His Kids Too!?
My background is Psychology and Social Work. My occupation was in helping people. When the opportunity arose to help people with a clothing ministry through Rich’s job at J.C. Penney, we started helping here in the community. That was in 1986. We still continue this ministry, under the name of Captital City Clothing Connection. When I met some missionaries from Albania, they asked for assistance and I could not refuse them. Then, other local people who support missionaries in many places started asking for help. We began this ministry in boxes and now we have distributed a material inventory of over $400,000 and have served over 50,000 people in 18 years. Who knows the domino effect. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on private donations for our funding.
In 2000, people wanted to start providing funds so that I could make purchases in-country for the orphans and people. Some in-country purchases can be made and this helps generate the local economy. It is VERY important that ‘locals’ see that you believe their products are worthy of your ‘American dollars’, and not just ship everything to the country you are serving. We formed His Kids, Too! in 2000 so that people could receive a tax benefit for their donations.
We presently serve people in: Ukraine, Albania, Russia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan. In the past we have also served in: Mexico, Cuba, China, Italy, and Bosnia. If the Lord opens a door, we will gladly go back to any country.
Explain the goals of His Kids Too!
The goal of His Kids, Too! is to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people while meeting their most basic needs. It is hard to talk to someone about God, or show them the love of God, if they are sick, unclothed and hungry. They just can’t ‘hear’ the message.
Tell what types of facilities you support with humanitarian aid (i.e. orphanages, etc.) and in what cities.
In Ukraine alone, His Kids, Too! supports, hospitals (both adult and children’s), children’s shelters, several orphanages, Internat (this is for children 5-17 yrs. of age), mental hospital, aids children’s hospital, orthopedic hospital, Cerebral Palsy Group in Kyiv, widow feeding program in Donetsk and Dzerzhinsk. In total we are working in 11 facilities with over 2500 children and hundreds of adults. In Albania, we support three orphanage facilities with over 300 children.
Tell in general about the people who benefit from the aid and give an example of someone who you have assisted.
The people who benefit are people just like you and I. They want to wear clean clothes, want food for their children and medical care, they want a future…….they are no different from us. It is our God given opportunity to serve them. We have placed special needs children in loving Christian homes whereas they would have been placed in a horrid institution. We have helped children without wheelchairs have mobility by providing a wheelchair. Children without clothing, coats, shoes, boots, personal care products, are all provided with these items…….because of donations. His Kids, Too! is just the messenger of your love for Christ. We can’t do this alone.
Who else is involved in His Kids Too! and what do they do?
Board Members, are: Lynn Allison, Donetsk, Ukraine; Ray Grayham, Donetsk, Ukraine; Nikka Donetsk, Ukraine. In-country aid distribution; Rich Fillmon, Tallahassee; Organization Communication Director, Teresa Fillmon/ Founder/Director. Additionally, we have over 20 active volunteers in several roles: donation collections, grant writing, sorting items, fundraising, letter writing, and more.
Tell something about yourself – when & where baptized. Other businesses. Hobbies (if you have any spare time!), how long married.
I was born and raised in Clearwater, Florida. I graduated from University of South Florida in Tampa with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. I met Rich on Thanksgiving Day 1982, and we married Sept. 3, 1983. I worked in my field for several years, but after having children, I went back to cleaning houses, which is what I started when I was 13 yrs. old. I was baptized May 28, 1989, in the University Church of Christ. I have 3 biological children, Dallas, 17, Lydia, 14, Haley 13, and we adopted Artur, and Alyssa (Alla) from Ukraine. Lena joined our family in January 2003 and she is also from Ukraine. I LOVE to fish, but don’t get to go enough……
Tell something about Dallas, Lydia and Haley including their work with the ministry.
Dallas, Lydia and Haley are great kids. Dallas and Haley have a wonderful nurturing side to them, whereas Lydia is more outgoing and playful. They each play a vital and important role in the ministry. Each LOVES to go to Ukraine, and hold, play and interact with the children. Dallas is wonderful for carrying all the heavy boxes; Lydia and Haley for sorting and sizing up kids for clothes. Each have their special stories about individual kids that they have grown attached to.
Tell about adopting Artur and Alla. Also Lena.
Originally, we wanted to adopt from Albania, but it was closed to Americans adopting for quite sometime. Then I was invited to Ukraine, and we decided that this may be a good international adoption choice. We started the process, and then I traveled to Ukraine in October 1998. We completed our paperwork and travel in Feb. 1999 to adopt Anatolyi, but after arriving the officials said we could not adopt this child (giving no reason). It was extremely difficult not to just leave, but we knew that God had put us there to adopt a child, and He directed us towards Artur. Artur is doing well, but has abandonment issues, since his biological mother left him at 14 months. The transition has had its ups and downs and we appreciate the kindness and encouragement we have received from our church friends. We still think about Anatolyi and pray for him. As far as we know, he is still in Ukraine.
After meeting Alla in 2000, we just prayed for this cute little girl. Each time I visited the orphanage I would specifically ask about her, and they would tell me, ‘no one wants her…just look at her….’ It was very sad, and time after time, I would see her, and she was VERY sad. I never saw her smile. During our summer trip of 2002, I was told she would be sent to an institution until at least 18 yrs. of age due to her disability and lack of adoptability. When Rich saw my grief over knowing that Alla would be institutionalized, he said, ‘let’s adopt her.’ We finally got to Alla on Christmas Eve 2002, and asked her if she wanted a ‘mom and dad, and a big family’ (It was important that she wanted to go with us, and that we just not make her). She smiled for the first time, and said, hesitantly, ‘yes, I want a family.’ I cried, as did many others in the room. The worst part of that day (Christmas Eve), was leaving her. She looked at us, and you could see that she didn’t think we were going to return, even after much assurance. Christmas Day, could not have been better, as we went to the orphanage, and waited for Alla. When she came into the room, she just ran into my arms, saying, ‘mama, mama, you came back.’. I said, ‘I told you I would, I love you!’. Haley took her and started to play with her, and that day, for the very first time, Alla laughed! It was a wonderful Christmas, even though we were 7000 miles from Lydia and Dallas (which was EXTREMELY hard for us). She left that orphanage on December 28th with many tears from the workers and director. Alla was smiling ear to ear, saying, ‘I’m going to America with my family!’.
I met Lena in 1998 on my first trip to Ukraine. She and I had an instant ‘bond’ and with each visit we grew closer. When she was able she started translating for me, and that drew us closer. She was granted the visa, and has been living with us for 16 months going to school at TCC. She will start FSU in the fall, where she has received a partial scholarship in music.
How can people assist in your ministry? I know you need volunteers.
His Kids, Too! always need volunteers to assist with donation collection, fundraising efforts and networking supplies. New and used items are frequently needed, but funds are also needed for the ongoing programs that we have in Ukraine. Additionally, making in-country purchases is vital to their economy.
All His Kids, Too! staff are volunteers. We pay for our own travel expenses and any other expenses of His Kids, Too!. All donations to His Kids, Too! are tax deductible and benefit widows, orphans and other needy people. We encourage people to review the website (www.Hiskidstoo.org) for detailed reports on how the funds are spent, and view the hundreds of photos of my frequent trips to Ukraine.
His Kids, Too! is an avenue to take the word of God to the lost of this world, by meeting their individual needs while showing them the love of the Lord. Many times we think of people in far away lands and think they are unreachable………just a long way away. His Kids, Too! tries to bring a face to those people, and provide others with an opportunity to serve them, changing lives one at a time …….because remember even though you may not know them personally, and they don’t live around the corner, or in another state, but across the world, they are His kids….too!