October 14, 2012
I Care: Lighting a spark in foster youth

20121010_AOC_ICareWilson_062w.jpg Lorrie Wilson is bubbly and self-assured as she tries on a barrage of clothing for a fashion show featuring foster kids and their supporters. She chatters about which outfit is the most flattering, but her reasons for participating go deeper than the animal print dress and chocolate pleather blazer she selects.
As a Women in Philanthropy volunteer, Wilson is determined to help teens soon to emancipate out of the foster care system choose a productive path into adulthood. Simply dressing them in nice clothing and cheering them on the runway can be enough to light a spark of self-worth, she says. These kids have to "work harder and fight harder" because they don't have supportive parents or consistency in their lives. "We can't do anything unless we have that self confidence," she says. "You can learn that job, but self-esteem has to come from within you."

The United Way's 11th Annual Women in Philanthropy Luncheon takes place this year on Monday October 15th at the Crocker Art Museum. "They're laughing. They're smiling," Wilson said of the foster youth who will model clothing from Macy's. "They're building tremendous self esteem. It's a memory they will carry with them and clothes on their back."

20121010_AOC_ICareWilson_153w.jpg Wilson grew up as an only child of a single working mother. She can relate to having adults outside her family having a positive influence in her life. She sees teenagers as being in a particularly vulnerable stage in life where their lives can take vastly different directions depending on their choices. Without help they are at risk of dropping out of school, getting involved in the wrong crowd or getting hooked on drugs. She sees all the potential in each teen she comes in contact with and wants to steer them in a direction where they will become productive members of society who will eventually give back. "You can do anything you want," she tells them. "The world is your oyster."
As a member of Women in Philanthropy she throws herself into every activity that they do, which include providing emancipation baskets to newly emancipated foster youth, teaching kids money management and communication skills in their Life Skills Workshops or participating in the fashion show. More activities are being planned. "Small things make a huge difference," she said. "If I impact one or two (kids) through all of this, it's all worth it."

Do you know an outstanding volunteer who should be profiled in the I Care photo column? Please email Autumn Payne at apayne@sacbee.com.

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