Austin couple adopts 2nd child — and maybe a widow, too — thanks to unique fundraiser

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local couple planning to adopt a child in a couple weeks hopes to offset some of the cost by spending a day volunteering to fix up a widow’s house.

The day of service, happening Saturday, is part of the mission of a nonprofit called Both Hands. Based on a Bible verse, the charity aims to accomplish two goals: helping children find families and helping women who’ve lost their husbands repair and update their homes.

Phil Gephart holds his 1-year-old daughter, Joy. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Phil and Clare Gephart applied for the nonprofit to raise money to adopt their second child, a process that can cost up to $50,000, federal figures show. They recruited volunteers and got materials donated for the day of service, and now they’re recruiting donors who support the work they’re doing to fund their second mission.

“It really has been a blessing on us,” Phil Gephart said.

The couple is still looking for more volunteers and donors for the repair work in north Austin. Find details or donate here.

The team of three dozen volunteers will paint walls inside and out, remove a raised garden bed, frame off garage doors, clean gutters and replace a mailbox, among other tasks. The Gepharts just recently met the recipient of their service through coordination with the nonprofit.

“She was like, ‘Just a month ago, I was thinking, there’s so much to be done around here, and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do it,'” Gephart remembered.

‘I miss him a lot’

The day of service is as much a blessing for Faye Bowes as it is for the Gepharts. The 78-year-old has lived in her north Austin home for more than 40 years; until recently she shared it with her husband, Bob.

“We would have been married 61 years the 1st of June last year,” she said, looking through the memories in the couple’s black-and-white wedding album. “We stuck it out and pulled together, and I miss him a lot.”

Faye Bowes looks through her wedding album. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Faye was 16 when the two married, and the two more or less grew up together, she explained. A working mom, she was never very involved with the family’s finances, so when Bob died in March 2019, she felt lost. “It seems like a long time and yet, other times it seems like it was just yesterday.”

The house had needed repairs for some time. She wasn’t sure where to start, nor could she afford to after Bob’s long illness and months of hospice care.

That was the backdrop when her pastor approached her one day. “And he says, God is shining on you today,” she said. “And I just, I couldn’t believe it.”

“As much work as it’s been,” Gephart said, “we are just really excited for Saturday, ’cause we think it’s just going to be a blessing to help her.”

Saving a home, growing another

While they’re helping preserve Bowes’ home so she can stay there longer, the Gepharts will be growing their own.

Phil and Clare had discussed adoption before they got married, so when the couple found out they were unable to have a biological child, the answer was clear. “That’s how Joy came into our lives,” Gephart said.

They adopted their first child (now a bubbly, inquisitive 1-year-old) a year ago the same day her biological mother gave birth. In about two weeks, they plan to adopt their second. “This project was actually planned for about a month from now,” he explained, “and then about three weeks ago, we got a call that said you were matched and she’s due in about a month, so we actually had to squeeze everything up, move the project to this Saturday.”

The family’s goal is to raise $15,000 to offset some of the cost of the adoption agency, travel to Florida and other expenses involved in growing their family.

And they’re not stopping with a new baby. Gephart said they’re going to adopt Bowes, too.

“I love it,” Bowes said, laughing. “I love it.”

Declining adoptions

The number of American families choosing adoption has been decreasing for years. According to data compiled in 2017 by researchers at the National Council for Adoption, 110,373 kids founded adopted homes in 2014, down from 133,737 seven years earlier.

One main reason for the significant decline, the researchers found, is the steep drop in international adoptions over the years. U.S. State Department figures show adoptions from other countries are still dropping. In 2007, 19,601 children came to American families from around the world; in 2018, the total was just 4,058.

The researchers blame both restrictive policies in other countries and a lack of robust support in the federal government for inter-country adoptions.

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