Doris Phillips and the Circle of Love Foundation.
Published: August 31, 2018
By: Lori Chandler Pruitt
Doris Phillips knows what it’s like.
Growing up, she was the kid who didn’t have what she needed to start the school year –like pencils and paper, among many other things. At Christmas, when it came time for the kids to share what they received from Santa, she had little to say.
That’s exactly why Phillips, now part owner and chief operating officer of Lake Homes Realty in Hoover and president/owner of RealSource, LLC, a title company in Pelham, started The Circle of Love Foundation. The 501(c)3 non-profit organization seeks to make sure children living in shelters and other tough circumstances have what they need for school, and Christmases to remember. The foundation began in 2004, and since then has been Santa to more than 5,000 children.
“Being poor, I was embarrassed at school,” Phillips explains. “If you aren’t excited about the third grade because you have no school supplies, you sure won’t be excited about junior high or high school. If you can plant a seed of hope in these kids, letting them know that someone cares, we’ve done what we set out to do.”
Phillips has been successful in her businesses and wanted to give back. “I am very blessed, and I don’t see myself as a victim because of what I have been through. I believe life is what you make of it, and we want to do what we can to help others.”
The Circle of Love Foundation serves children who live in and around local shelters, such as Jessie’s Place, First Light, Olivia House, Grace House, The Lovelady Center, rural areas with families in need, and more. The foundation has donated more than 30,000 toys, and this year hosted its 6th annual Back to School supply drive. This year’s drive benefitted Olivia’s House, Jessie’s Place, and First Light, Phillips says.
“If you aren’t excited about third grade because you have no school supplies, you sure won’t be excited about junior high or high school. If you can plant a seed of hope in these kids, letting them know that someone cares, we’ve done what we set out to do.” – Doris Phillips
The foundation has two major fundraisers each year. It puts out boxes at the offices of customers, clients, friends, and family for donations of school supplies and backpacks – “we make sure the backpacks are full,” she says – and at Christmastime for toys, winter clothing and other items, such as pajamas. The toy drive will have its 15th year this year.
The bulk of children served are from three to 13 years old, but it can vary from infants to teenagers, Phillips says. “Some years we have more teens than we expected, but it is really our last chance to speak to them to some degree before they age out,” she says. The shelters provide information on children, such as age, sex, their needs and the school supply list for the school they will attend.
When the boxes are filled, volunteers set up the contents like a store at each shelter being sponsored, by age group, and each child gets the same items, Phillips says.
The foundation also responds to specific needs that come up. For example, the foundation and RealSource recently provided college dorm room necessities for five graduating seniors at Grace House Ministries. “We have people who call us with needs, and we love to fulfill them,” she says. “These ladies are going to college, and we’re so glad to be able to help.”
Most of all, she just wants to be there for those who need it. “If we don’t have it, I just go buy it,” she says. “We are trying to do the meaningful thing for each child.”
The organization is updating its website – thecircleoflove.org – and has a Facebook page, The Circle of Love Foundation. You also can reach the foundation at 205-985-2991 or email email@example.com. Volunteers are always welcome and needed, she says.
Phillips has big plans for the foundation’s future – “one day, we’d love to be able to pay for college for children,” she says.
Lori Pruitt is associate editor of Birmingham Parent.