A helping hand: local nonprofit making a difference for area youth
By Wesley Gardner
When Charity Kittrell moved to Lockhart with her family three years ago, she had dreams of opening a restaurant. She’d grown up around them and there were opportunities to be had in the area. That didn’t happen. What did occur was far more special.
Kittrell and her husband had already been involved in foster care prior to moving to Caldwell County. They’ve even adopted a few children.
“Ours hearts have always been with kids, but that wasn’t what our dream was,” said Kittrell, noting she saw an opportunity to help more foster children when she and her husband purchased a ranch in the area. “We were just going to be in the foster kid industry, providing respite for families who need a vacation.
“I don’t know, it just grew into helping kids that were in need in Caldwell County. We did some research and found, you know, 85 percent [of the kids were] economically disadvantaged. Foster kids are just a part of that. So, if we can help more kids, we should help more kids. And we can.”
Thus, 4:12 Kids was born, at least conceptionally. In Aug. 2018, Kittrell and group of friends decided to host an unofficial back-to-school event, providing students in need with backpacks and school supplies.
“We just kind of threw it together and 314 kids and their families came,” said Kittrell. “That really validated that what we were doing was needed.”
By Jan. 2019, 4:12 Kids had received an official designation as a nonprofit organization, meaning it could generally bring in bigger donors and sponsors because those donating can claim tax deductions for charitable contributions.
According to Kittrell, the nonprofit’s mission is to encourage, empower and equip youth to pursue positive choices in preparation for life, relationships, community service and leadership.
Calling the nonprofit “4:12 Kids” implies as much. The name is based on bible verse Timothy 4:12, which says, “Do not let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith and your purity.”
“We just want kids to know regardless of their economic status they can make a difference – they can go out in their community and do things and they matter,” said Kittrell. “That was important to us.”
In addition to the Back-to-School Event, the nonprofit offers a number of events aimed at helping children and their families in need. The Prom Dress Drive has been particularly popular for girls throughout Caldwell County and beyond who may not be able to afford an expensive dress for their special evening.
Last year, the nonprofit collected more than 200 dresses and set up shop at All About You Boutique in Lockhart, allowing anyone bringing a student ID to come and shop for prom dresses for free.
4:12 Kids also started a Thanksgiving Boxes program last year that gave 44 families everything they needed — turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pie — to cook a delicious meal for themselves at home.
Additionally, the nonprofit sponsors students and even entire teams of kids who can’t afford the registration fees or equipment needed to play youth sports.
According to Kittrell, the nonprofit is currently in the process of saving funds its planned scholarship program, which would be used to help graduating students attend technical certification programs.
“Welding, automotive – those trades are very, very important,” said Kittrell. “There’s a lot of emphasis on college scholarships, but nobody recognizes [trade schools are] a need financially, too.
“They go through the programs at the high school, but sometimes there’s that one last certification that’s going to cost you a couple thousand dollars.”
Eventually, Kittrell said the nonprofit wants to start a mentoring program that would aim to provide encouragement for youth members going through difficult situations at home.
The nonprofit also works with agencies Victim Services and Child Protective Services. Kittrell said she would like 4:12 Kids to operate as a hub of sorts that could connect the community with important resources they may now know exist.
For as much as the nonprofit is already doing, Kittrell said she has dreams greatly expanding its offerings, though she said it would be hard to achieve everything she wants to achieve in their current office on San Antonio Street in Lockhart.
When you walk into the office, it’s easy to see what she means.
There are rooms filled with clothing, shoes, school supplies, emergency kits for displaced families and more. There are dress racks filled with prom dresses and a small gathering room with room to seat about 20 people. The nonprofit currently uses the room for tutoring, resume writing and a 12-step recovery program it hosts, but she can only offer so many spots due to the limited space.
Kittrell said she would love to be able to purchase land to build a larger facility that could contain a gymnasium for kids and greatly expand the nonprofit’s ability to expand its tutoring, mentorship and 12-step recovery program, but funds are limited.
Right now, the nonprofit operates solely on private donations, though Kittrell said the organization will begin applying for larger grants soon. In the meantime, residents or businesses who are interested in helping out can donate directly to the nonprofit on its website at www.412kids.org. Businesses interested in becoming sponsors can contact Kittrell directly at 512-668-4334. Monetary donations are preferred, she said, due to the limited space in the office.
The nonprofit had an Easter Extravaganza event scheduled to take place from 9-11 a.m. on April 11 at the Youth Sports Complex in Lockhart City Park, but Kittrell said it could be postponed due to recent gathering restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus.
The event will feature an Easter egg hunt starting at 10 a.m., as well as bounce houses, face painting, balloon twisting provided Lockhart City Councilman David Bryant and other activities for the kids.
Kittrell said that while the nonprofit is a bible-based organization, religion isn’t forced on anyone who comes seeking help.
“Yes, we are a bible-based group, but we are not affiliated with the church,” said Kittrell. “We are not going to push anything when you come in.
“We’re not judgmental. We’re not critical, because that’s not what the bible says.”