The story of Jolyn and Kyle Foltz, and SHIFT, is genuinely a unique one. Not because of how they’re giving back to the community. Not because of the under-appreciated clientele they seek to serve. Not because of the way it has brought them closer as a family unit.
Because it’s not every day that someone goes out and starts a nonprofit.
Founded by Kyle and Jolyn Foltz, a 34-year-old married couple from South Lebanon, SHIFT is Lebanon County’s smallest, newest and most personal nonprofit. SHIFT stands for Supportive Housing Improving Foster Transition.
In a nutshell, the concept behind the unique nonprofit is to help young people at risk for homelessness – especially those who have come through the foster-care system – gain a footing in society as adults. It’s a cause that the Foltzes are not only familiar with, but one that’s also near and dear to their collective heart.
“As we started to connect with other organizations in the community, and heard their origin stories, they were established years ago,” said Jolyn Foltz. “To launch a nonprofit from nothing, we learned that it’s a little unique. But we did learn of others like ours. It’s not completely unheard of.”
“It was completely a leap of faith,” said Kyle Foltz. “Jolyn and I don’t have backgrounds in mental health, but we want to try to connect with resources that are currently available in the county. It speaks to our faith, because that’s what’s behind it. It’s what led us here.”
If the Foltzes’ union is the driving force behind SHIFT, then it was their experience with fostering a young lady that was the match that lit the charitable organization’s flame.
Through that experience, the Foltzes learned that as local children ‘graduate’ from the foster care system, they are at a greater risk for homelessness, as well as drug use, underemployment, and incarceration, due to a lack of on-going family support. SHIFT seeks to aid those young people—ages 18 to 24—identified as ‘at risk’ by providing housing, structure, education, and training.
“The concept is ‘Shifting’ one’s trajectory or path,” said Kyle Foltz. “Statistics show that younger people are more likely to end up homeless, or outcomes that are much worse, when they age out of foster care. When they’ve been doing things on their own, it’s sometimes difficult to get youth to trust you. They feel like they’ve been doing things on their own and that they can continue to do things on their own. A lot of them are in survival mode. If you’re focused on survival mode, you can’t be focused on long-term goals.”
“Our mission is to demonstrate God’s love to children in danger of homelessness,” said Jolyn Foltz. “At the heart of this is that these youth didn’t get unconditional love from parents. That love takes the form of helping them and supporting them. What we found in our journey as foster parents was a lot of it comes down to trust, that someone believes in you and will stand by you, not matter what. There’s also this sense of self-worth. That was so difficult for the youths to believe when we told them.”
Homelessness in Lebanon County is a real problem.
There already existed a number of local nonprofits dedicated to combating the crisis, organizations like Lebanon County Christian Ministries, Lebanon County Coalition to End Homelessness, Lebanon Rescue Mission and Community Homes of Lebanon County, just to name a few. But what sets SHIFT apart from those others is its mission to help younger people, and to work with those at risk in more of a one-on-one and permanent basis.
The Foltzes’ cooperative and collaborative approach with SHIFT has been to apply already existing resources to aid its clientele.
“As we’ve become more involved, we’ve learned those groups are doing a great job,” said Jolyn Foltz. “But there is more to be done. The housing need in Lebanon is huge. Our program is focused on those who are coming out of foster care, but it’s also open to young adults who are not coming out of foster care. In the fall of 2019, there was an average of about ten local youths who were aging out of foster care. The number isn’t huge, but if you think of the accumulative number, SHIFT can make a big impact on young lives.”
“We had a young man come to us who was experiencing a version of homelessness and we were able to put him into an apartment rent-free,” said Kyle Foltz. “The rent was based on his income. We implemented a plan of action that included three months of goals and milestones, and took into consideration his physical and mental health. It also included resume building and job searches. We met with the participant once a week to check in on goals. This participant was able to get a full-time job.”
In light of the 15-month, on-going COVID-19 crisis, SHIFT is still very much a start-up.
The Foltzes founded SHIFT in 2019 and it legally became a nonprofit in January 2020. To this point, SHIFT has helped one local young person get on his feet.
SHIFT is planning a fundraising mini-golf outing for June 5 at Yogey’s Miniature Golf and Ice Cream Parlor in Lebanon. For more information about the event, or to support the SHIFT cause, visit the website.
Currently, the Foltzes are operating SHIFT out of their South Lebanon home, but ultimately they’re hoping to move the nonprofit into a building that will host its operation and also provide apartments for housing.
“I think we’re coming out of the start-up phase,” said Kyle Foltz. “We’re building off the structure of the organization and the planning that’s there. We’ve only had one participant come through the program. Now, it’s really about getting the next participant, to continue our way out of the start-up phase. We have a bit of a pipeline of applications coming in. We’d like to grow this into office space in a building with one-room apartments above it.”
“I think we’re always open to seeing where it goes and the new ways we can meet the needs, based on how we feel they are most effective,” said Jolyn Foltz. “By helping the community, it makes your community a better place to live. At this point, we’re just trying to grow awareness of the need and how SIFT is trying to address that need.”
The Foltzes began SHIFT to help others help themselves, and as a way to give back. But ultimately, the future success of the charitable organization may hinge on the strength of their bond.
“I would say it’s brought us closer,” said Jolyn Foltz. “If we go back to our journey of deciding we wanted to be foster parents, it was a rollercoaster. It wasn’t always easy. But during those challenges we leaned on each other more, and we leaned on God more. Overcoming those things made our relationship stronger. We definitely felt led to it by God.”
“I think there was kind of a unique alignment of opportunities as well,” said Kyle Foltz. “We’ve really focused on affecting life changes, one person at a time. We’re kind of looking to help a few people, in an eternal way. I think our faith led us to foster parenting in the first place.”
In that way, the Foltzes’ life together has experienced its own SHIFT.
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