Bloom’s President and CEO, Becky Davenport, recently celebrated her 20th anniversary with the organization. In May of 2004, she was named Executive Director of Fayette Youth Protection Homes, which is now known as Bloom. It’s not common for a CEO to remain with an organization for over 20 years, especially in the nonprofit sector, but Bloom has been incredibly fortunate to have had a consistent and dedicated leader for such an extended period.

When Davenport first started at Fayette Youth Protection Homes, the organization served approximately 25 kids in Fayette County. Under her leadership, Bloom has experienced remarkable growth and now supports thousands of children each year across 136 counties in Georgia. As a lifelong advocate for children in foster care, Davenport looks back with gratitude at Bloom’s evolution.

What was Fayette Youth Protection Homes like when you first started in 2004?

When I started my position as Executive Director back in 2004, the Fayette Youth Protection Homes operated two residential group homes for foster children. The Jim Friday Home was located on the northern side of Fayette County and the Asden Johnson Home was located on the southern end in Brooks. At that time, our organization provided shelter and services to approximately 25 to 30 foster children each year with priority to serve Fayette County children. Back then, placement of foster children into group homes was considered best practice, and our community wholeheartedly embraced our mission to create a better future for these children. I was very fortunate to have inherited a well-run organization with a solid infrastructure as well as a groundswell of support from people and board members who passionately believed in our cause.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as President and CEO of Bloom?

Not long after I began working for Fayette Youth Protection Homes, the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), began phasing out the placement of children into group home care in favor of placement into private foster care homes. Because of declining referrals to group homes, over time, the Friday Home and the Johnson Home stayed half-full. Our community has always been extremely supportive and attached to the two homes. It was a difficult and somewhat scary decision to shut down the homes in favor of launching our foster care program and later the Bloom Closet, and there were some people in our community who were not happy with that decision. In the end, though, it was the best decision we could have made, and we are now able to extend our reach and services beyond what we ever dreamed possible. Had we not been willing to take a risk and reinvent ourselves, even to the point of renaming the organization and creating a new business model for operations, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Why did you choose the name “Bloom?”

We chose the name “Bloom” because it connotes a sense of joy and hopefulness that points to the core of our mission: to restore safety and dignity to foster children and facilitate their healing. Despite their circumstances, foster children can achieve their God given potential, and can “bloom.” From the beginning, I have said that because “Bloom” is such an unconventional name for a nonprofit, that we are going to have to do big things to live up to the name!

How did the idea for the Bloom Closet come about and how much it has grown since it initially began?

The Bloom Closet had the humblest of beginnings. The original intent was to use our unfinished office basement as a place to store and organize donated items for the children at our two homes as well as share these blessings with other foster children in our county. We opened the closet in December 2009, and that first year we served around 100 children. From the very beginning, the program just snowballed. Our big break came in 2013 when SMC3, a transportation logistics company, bought an 8,000 square-foot building and gave us the keys to the building, beginning a rent-free 25-year lease. Having that extra space gave us the means to dream big, and once we moved into the building, we churned out a 30percent annual growth rate as far as numbers of children served. Additionally, with the extra space we were able to create this fun, boutique-like environment that made the children feel special and let them know they were safe and among people who care. This past year, we served 6,500 foster children from 136 Georgia counties through the Bloom Closet and the Bloom Closet Express, and we opened an additional location in Rome, GA.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments while here at Bloom?

The times when it becomes very clear that the trajectory of a child’s life has been changed for the better are when I get my biggest sense of accomplishment. I think back on individual stories over the years…when a child or a sibling group finds their forever family, when a teen goes on to college or a middle schooler finally learns to read; when a child feels alone in the world and we are able to provide him or her comfort in the form of a pair of shoes that fit, new pajamas, or presents under the Christmas tree. It is hard to pick one of those stories because they are all equally important, but these stories are the most meaningful and proudest moments of my career here at Bloom.

Where do you see Bloom in the next five to ten years?

We are in the process of executing a 10-year strategy to reach every child in foster care in the state of Georgia through the Bloom Closet. This exciting new program, called Bloom Direct, will eventually allow foster children and families statewide the opportunity to order clothing and daily living essentials through our website and have the items shipped directly to their location. We just started a pilot program for Bloom Direct in DFCS Region 9 which is an area of our state which lacks access to resources. It is an exciting time for Bloom, and I can’t wait to see this plan unfold!

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