Dr. Kathy Kunkel is an active United Methodist and a veterinarian who often loads her horse trailer with suitcases full of toiletries and basic clothing items to deliver to foster children in 48 counties. She started a nonprofit in Tennessee called Love on Wheels to give dignity and hope to foster children.
Rebecca Peppers: “They took me in the middle of the night to some weird place. My sister was scared. I told her it would be fine.”
(Voice of Dr. Kathy Kunkel) Entering into the foster care system is a very traumatic experience.
Johnny Peppers: “It’s 11:30 at night. Five kids show up in a van, everything they own is in one giant black trash bag.”
Rebecca Peppers: “A trash bag. I didn’t have a toothbrush. I thought, 'I have nothing.'”
Johnny Peppers: “They had lice, scabies, we had to burn the clothes.”
(Voice of Dr. Kathy Kunkel) “Foster children are often reduced to carrying their things around in trash bags. From moment one they’re told nonverbally that they, too, are trash. So, we want to turn that around.”
Veterinarian Kathy Kunkel loves animals and children. She founded Love on Wheels in Franklin, Tennessee.
Dr. Kathy Kunkel, Love on Wheels: “We provide suitcases on wheels full of basic necessities: blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, school supplies, shampoo, diapers, underwear, socks, just the basics.”
(Volunteers talk) “Then we have school supplies, you’re in charge of that and I’ll do toiletries.”
Dr. Kathy Kunkel: “Inside is always a note of encouragement, that we call a love note, written by a child of the same age, with a message of hope and faith, and a reintroduction to the idea that they belong, they are worthy.”
Rebecca Peppers: “This is my suitcase that I got from Love on Wheels. When I got the bag, I thought it was a Christmas present.”
Kunkel says her church, Bethlehem United Methodist, helped get Love on Wheels rolling.
Dr. Kathy Kunkel: “I actually was talking to my pastor at church one day and telling him about this idea, and he said, 'What’s stopping you from doing it?'”
Fellow church member and foster dad Johnny Peppers is grateful for the ministry.
Johnny Peppers, Bethlehem United Methodist Church: “There is a blanket that my two-year-old got that he still sleeps with today. That object has an amazing amount of emotional and mental safety to it."
Dr. Kathy Kunkel: “Foster care parents are also going through a lot. They’re taking in a child that they never met before in their lives and they’re often not prepared.”
Johnny Peppers: “We get the call, 'We’ll be there in two and a half hours.' So we go to Walmart, we buy five different boxes of diapers in different sizes because they couldn’t tell us what size they were and we bought some goldfish and we thought, 'OK, this will keep us where we need to be.' There was nothing greater than to come into this room and get five little suitcases full of things that can help those kids feel safe in our house.”
(Child shows book) “To unlock it, you just push on there and this is how you unlock it.”
Peppers and his wife adopted those five foster children. The family now volunteers with Love on Wheels.
Rebecca Peppers: “This is my home now. I love it here. It’s just fun to come home.”