Most of us have encountered situations that need correcting or improving, but how many have actually taken steps to do something to bring about change? Tracy Foster did. Over the course of several years Tracy and her husband Steve adopted three children from Vietnamese orphanages. During the adoption processes, she realized there were many services and infrastructures provided by these orphanages that needed improvement, and determined she wanted to provide the means to make the improvements. She recruited a small group of individuals in the Knoxville, TN, area who shared similar goals, and began laying the groundwork to a non-profit dedicated to the cause – Project Being There.
During the first two years of its existence, Project Being There participated in several events sponsored by other organizations and also conducted their own projects, raising about $14,000. This amount was used to provide improvements for St. An’s Orphanage in Vietnam, with projects such as water filtration and distribution of clean water, improvements to washing and sanitation facilities, working with the staff on improving health and nutrition, and funding needed medical procedures. They also worked with playground equipment manufacturer Play and Park to plan and develop a playground concept that would be safe and accessible to all the residents living at St. An’s orphanage, including the special needs children.
These activities were recognized and gained the attention of the NBC television news department producer Kevin Monahan. In early 2011 a film crew accompanied Tracy and Mike to St. An’s to film a segment for an NBC Nightly News “Making a Difference” feature which aired nationally on June 27. Since this airing, donations to Project Being There have increased tremendously, and many viewers have volunteered their time and services to the organization.
Long term goals for Project Being There include providing additional living quarters for St. An’s, construction of a boundless playground, post-graduation educational support, and expanding their efforts to other orphanages in Vietnam.
Knowing that forming a non-profit organization was required in order to raise the necessary funds but not sure where to start, Tracy turned to SCORE for assistance. Working with mentor Chuck Christiansen, they completed their application for Non-Profit 501 C3 certification, and formed Project Being There in March 2009.
Raising funds meant they needed a structured business plan, including a marketing plan to create a presence in the community and to develop projects to raise the necessary funds. Again Christiansen assisted Tracy and fellow board member Mike Pierce in creating these plans. Tracy credits SCORE with helping them establish a solid business foundation by which they can operate and achieve their goals.