Something for the Children-Grace in a Case
Courtesy Photo-Grace in a Case
You want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. An early lesson learned by LaKiesha C Allen. At 15, Allen found herself in Mississippi and was discarded like trash. Or so it felt, explained Allen. Allen grew up in the foster care system. “I learned that all things are possible through God,” said Allen. I had reached a time and place in my life where I had no other place to turn. I discovered the power of prayer.”
One morning she awoke to hear her foster mother giving someone the business on the phone. A short time later, she was whisked away by car to the Department of Human Services (DHS). “It was a school day,” remembered Allen. “It was early, and the DHS office wasn’t open yet. I sat there on the steps waiting for the office to open. It felt like an eternity.”
While sitting on the steps of the trailer home/DHS office, Allen recalls asking God in prayer, "why is it so easy for me to be put out like the trash!"
The one overriding memory thirty years later Allen noted from the whole experience was that she was given garbage bags and told to collect her belongings quickly. She was ushered off into the brisk morning air, a garbage bag full of belonging in hand. "I felt like I was being set out like garbage," said Allen.
This unfortunate ordeal happened the Allen more than 25 years ago. It made a lasting impression on Allen. She wondered whether or not her experience was isolated or shared. To her surprise, it was commonplace. For many years Allen wanted to do something so that other children would not feel like garbage.
The pandemic was a blessing in disguise. Only in the sense that it gave Allen both the opportunity and the time to organize a way to help unfortunate children in the foster care system. "I can't feed, clothes and house all of them," said Allen. "But I can make sure there are being treated with basic human dignity."
In 2020, Allen started a nonprofit called “Grace in a Case.” The basic concept would be that children will be given a new suitcase and basic toiletries when entering and transitioning through the foster care system instead of the present-day garbage bag system. "I have wanted to do something for quite a while," said Allen. "I guess everything lined up just right in 2020.”
You could hear the disappointment in her voice as Allen noted that many foster care parents are in it for the money only. There’s very little concern for the people whose lives are in their care. "It's unfortunate for the children in the system, but if the money needed for their care is delayed in any way, children suffer," said Allen. "All I wanted was a suitcase for my clothes, my toothbrush, and clothes not two sizes too small." Allen also explained that most children enter the system with only the clothes on their backs. "I want to give foster children some dignity as there are enduring the darkest moments of their lives,” said Allen. “I may not be able to take away the pain of being shuttle about, but I can show them some grace.”
Allen emancipated herself out of the foster care system at 18 and never looked back. "I had some pretty unpleasant experiences," said Allen. "But, once you accept that God has a plan for you, everything will be all right."
Besides the nonprofit to help children, Allen is quite an accomplished entrepreneur. Allen has four additional registered LLCs in addition to her "Grace in a case" foundation. "I don't like all of the politics involved in always working for other people," said Allen. "I don't want to work for someone else until retirement."
Reflecting on what in life makes her happy, Allen noted, "I like the ability to step into someone's life at a dark moment and bring the light. That’s very satisfying. I want my legacy to be that of servitude.” Allen's favorite pastime is reading. "Reading is my escape from reality or to a new reality," smiled Allen. As for a favorite place to travel, "I would love to go to Africa," said Allen. "I would like to walk on the same terrain as my forefathers. I want to see where the slave trade originated."
Allen is a very talented woman. She decided to share her poetry with everyone in addition to giving us her story. For additional information contact LaKiesha at www.lakieshacharmainellc.com.