SPRINGFIELD – At first, Olivia Hayse received an email from a stranger in Australia that claimed he wanted to donate more than $15,000 to her Springfield employer – but first he needed their bank account and check routing numbers.
“We thought this is a scam for sure and just ignored it.”
More emails came. And they ignored them too.
Hayse works for the James Project, a Springfield charity that helps foster children. And she couldn’t imagine why a couple they didn’t know, in a country on the other side of the planet would want to send them a big check.
But the Aussies became more persistent and kept leaving messages on the office phone.
“He had a thick Australian accent and we didn’t know what to think,” Hayse said,
Finally, they connected with the fellow.
“It turns out that his family wants to start a ministry that helps foster families in Australia and they wanted to call it the ‘James Project.’ When they googled the name, they found out there was a ministry in Springfield with the same name that is essentially doing the same thing they want to do. They prayed about it and said they felt called to first give to our ministry before starting their own.”
The Springfield ministry affiliated with more than a dozen area churches has since received a check for $15,800 from the family down under, who has said they wish to remain anonymous.
Both the James Projects in Springfield and Brisbane are named after the Bible verse James 1:27, which says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
One of the folks who have taken this verse to heart is Kasey Miller.
Both she and her husband, Ryan, first fostered and then adopted four children, now between the ages of 2 and 6, who they are rearing along with their 13-year-old biological child.
“There is no way we would be able to do this without the assistance of the James project,” she said. “We didn’t have a house big enough for this many kids. But the James Project provides us with a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house rent free,” she said.
Kasey is a teacher at Calvary Academy and Ryan is a youth pastor at Clear Lake Church of Christ.
The James Project also pays for enrichment activities. For example, for the Miller children, the organization pays for gymnastics, karate and piano lessons.
“We are saving during this period that they have no rent or mortgage payments. We hope to use those savings to someday build a house for our family,” Kasey said.
The James Project provides four families with houses to live in at no cost and is in the process of providing a fifth house. Since 2014, the ministry has helped 78 foster children. They also provide clothes, toiletries, beds, diapers and other items for foster families.
“This donation came through at a critical time for foster families,” Hayse said. “A year ago, there were 515 foster kids in Sangamon County. Today there are 625. At the same time, we have fewer families willing to foster because of the demands of home schooling during Covid and other pandemic related issues.”
Hayse said the Springfield ministry is providing guidance to the Australian family as they work to form their outreach.
“They are really a wonderful family who feels called by God to help. And we are happy to help them,” she said.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area. Scottreeder1965@gmail.com