PITTSBURG — In 2018, Lacy Nickelson founded the faith-based organization Fostering Connections to assist foster families, both through events such as Kids’ Night Out — where foster kids get to make crafts or participate in fun activities while their foster parents get a break — or an upcoming ice skating event geared towards the whole family, as well as by helping children in need at some of their most vulnerable times, before they have been placed with a foster family.

“It’s a huge sacrifice of time, of money, of energy that these parents are giving, so that’s the main reason for Fostering Connections,” Nickelson said.

Since it started, Fostering Connections has given out hundreds of VIP Kids Boxes, which “are just boxes for kids to receive when they’re sitting at the police department when they have nothing,” Nickelson said. The boxes include items such as toys, books, a comb, a toothbrush, and a pair of socks.

“At first it was really just a ministry,” Nickelson said. “My husband and I got involved in what’s called police protective custody, and it’s basically taking kids in between the time when they’re at the police department to the time that they’re placed in foster care.” Through that work, Nicklelson said, she realized there was both a great local community of foster families, along with many opportunities to assist them.

Many foster parents give up in their first year of raising foster children, Nickelson said. “It’s a tough job,” she said, “so the more supported they feel, the more encouraged they feel, the more wrapped-around they feel, the greater chances of them being able to continue on.”

Nickelson is originally from Mound City in Linn County. She earned her undergraduate degree in marketing from Oklahoma State University in 2003 and her master’s in human resource development from Pittsburg State University in 2005.

“We love Pittsburg,” Nickelson said. “We love the community and it’s just developed so much over just really the last 10 years I feel like.”

Today, Nickelson and her husband Tom have four children enrolled in Pittsburg schools. “I love raising our kids in this community,” Nickelson said, “and the friends we’ve made and the connections that we’ve made have been such a blessing.”

Fostering Connections is a faith-based group, but is not affiliated with any specific church.

“We’ve had a lot of local church support from a variety of different churches,” Nickelson said. “We’re called as Christians to help look after orphans and kids in need and so it’s certainly a faith-based ministry, but we’ve received not just church support but community support as well.”

Community organizations other than churches that have partnered with Fostering Connections include Rotary, Kiwanis, Pittsburg Young Professionals, and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We have an amazing board that helps direct Fostering Connections activities and, you know, it’s taken a village. … Although I’m receiving the award for Women of Distinction, Fostering Connections has been a total team effort by a lot of people,” Nickelson said. “A lot of people don’t realize we have such a strong group of amazing foster and adoptive parents in this area. … Many of them are humble and are just doing what they feel called to do, and they’re really the ones that I feel like deserve the praise and the recognition, not me.”

When she heard she was being recognized as a 2020 Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Woman of Distinction, Nickelson “was overjoyed,” she said.

“I was surprised and excited at the same time,” she said. “I didn’t expect it — I’m still not even sure who nominated me — but it was quite an honor for sure.”