Since its inception in June of 2011, Children’s Lantern in Defiance has helped serve foster families, adoptive families, aged-out foster youth, and victims of human trafficking in the Defiance six-county area, and other parts of the world.
In the last 10 years, Children’s Lantern has been located above Cabin Fever Coffee in downtown Defiance (twice), at the former Skylark building on Jackson Avenue, and on Holgate Avenue. In late 2019, early 2020, the 501©3 organization began looking for a new home which would better serve its clients.
On April 25, 2021, Children’s Lantern purchased the building at 930 S. Clinton (next to KFC), to become its permanent home. According to executive director Nate Taylor, although the building is still undergoing some renovations, the doors are open to serve the public.
“Several renovations to the building needed to be done before we could move in, and we’re still in the process of finishing all the renovations,” said Taylor. “It took us about a month to move from above Cabin Fever to here, we had a lot more stuff than we realized.”
Taylor went on to explain there were certain criteria the staff of Children’s Lantern wanted/needed in a new location.
“When we were looking for a new building, a big goal was to have office spaces for Abbie (Phillips, family care coordinator), Ashlee (Vandemark, chief financial officer) and myself, because we didn’t have that above Cabin Fever,” said Taylor. “Having our own offices gives us the opportunity to meet with clients and donors in a more private setting.
“Being located above Cabin Fever didn’t always make it accessible for everyone to get to us with all the stairs, so we were looking for a building with as few stairs as possible,” added Taylor. “There are no stairs here, so that’s a big plus. We also wanted to stay close to downtown and this location works.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor explained Children’s Lantern was only able to serve clients by appointment. Since relocating, and with the easing of COVID protocols, the doors to the new building are open to the public.
“COVID really made it difficult for us to carry out our mission, just because of not being able to be in close contact with the people we serve,” said Taylor. “Now that we moved, it’s great to be in a space where we can welcome in our clients and donors, and renew those relationships again.
“We’re still working on our Hope House Boutique (where foster families come for supplies for youth being welcomed into their homes), but that’s coming along, and hopefully, soon, we’ll be done with renovations,” continued Taylor. “I really like the space, it’s definitely going to help us be more productive in our mission to support families, strengthen the vulnerable and empower the community.”
On Saturday, the organization will host its annual Back to School Bash, the first event in its new location. According to Taylor, about 150 youth will be supplied with a backpack, school supplies based on that youth’s class list, new shoes from the non-profit organization Just for Kickz of Montpelier, and free haircuts supplied by the stylists at Cut & Polished Hair and Nail Salon of Defiance.
“We set up appointments with the families to come to Children’s Lantern on Saturday (today), for the backpack and school supplies, and Just for Kickz will have a trailer set up on the property for the youth to get shoes,” said Taylor. “After they get everything they need here, they can go to Cut & Polished for the free haircut. There will be games and refreshments that day, too. We’d like to thank our partners for making this such a great event.”
The Back to School Bash is just one of many ways Children’s Lantern’s reach is felt in the community.
“Outside of the Back to School Bash, we’re here to help foster and adoptive families in any way we can,” said Taylor. “We know that families that welcome foster children into their homes, and families that adopt children, need support. We’re here to help them get what they need when they need it. We have respite nights for parents, we have an adoptive mom retreat, we have a community event called, ‘Be the Village,’ ... it’s about helping people.
“We also have a pair of studio apartments we use to help individuals who have aged-out of the foster care system, and need support until they can get on their feet and take care of themselves,” continued Taylor. “Those have also been used to help with victims of human trafficking. We want people to know, all donations we receive are used 100% for the resources we provide, and that we appreciate the people of this community who are truly loving and giving.”
Office hours at Children’s Lantern are 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Thursday.
Taylor explained once renovations are complete, those hours may be expanded.