Sandra Hubbard was at the top of her game as an entrepreneur when a fall in a convenience store changed everything. She was left with a disability and had to stop working. “It was hard. Before this I was a go-getter
,” said Mrs. Hubbard, who had owned three businesses with her husband, Frank. “I went into a deep depression
Then, a “God thing” happened. The Hubbards launched an Upstate-based ministry that donates special dolls to girls in foster care group homes and shelters. “I feel like God used this to help me see I can be used to do something,” said Mrs. Hubbard, co-founder of the Butterfly Ministry For Girls. “Usually when you do something for somebody else it takes your mind off yourself.”
Sandra Hubbard’s mindset shift began in 2010, after she and Frank began taking their oldest granddaughter to an American Girl Doll Club at the library in Easley. Until then, “I didn’t even know what an American Girl Doll was,” Mrs. Hubbard said. “We have grown daughters that hit the age when they came out, but I didn’t know about them, couldn’t have afforded them if I did.” Months later, the Hubbards became the leaders of that club. Because of her injury, Mrs. Hubbard was uncertain if she would be able to take on that new role. “I had asked God to help me and, of course, my precious husband said, ‘Whatever you want to do, I will help you,’” she said.
That very first day, Mrs. Hubbard noticed a little girl sitting alone as others were busy working on crafts.“I went over and talked to her. I got her to smile
,” she said. The Hubbards later learned that the girl was attending the club with a foster mom. Another child in the family had American Girl dolls and allowed the foster child to play with the dolls. In March 2011, the Hubbards turned on their TV to hear that the foster child they had met at the library, Raven Stancell, 10, had been killed along with a Department of Social Services worker in a car wreck. The Hubbards went to Stancell’s funeral. “We saw butterflies every where and found out that the little girl loved butterflies
,” Mrs. Hubbard said. The Hubbards said they didn’t know a soul at the funeral. They also didn’t know much about foster care. But both were compelled to do something in the child’s memory. “I looked at (Frank) and said, ‘This is so unfair. This child never got to own an American Girl doll just because of her circumstance,
'” Mrs. Hubbard recalled. “We vowed to give one American Girl doll a year to Miracle Hill in her memory."
That gesture to honor Stancell turned into a full-blown ministry that now donates at least 100 American Girl dolls a year to more than 20 different facilities.
“We started out thinking we could be a blessing to a little girl. We’re the ones getting the blessing,” Mrs. Hubbard said. The ministry has become a full-time effort for the Hubbards. “We work together as partners in crime,” Mrs. Hubbard said. “I have a disability that I will have for the rest of my life, but I can walk. I can talk. I’m blessed, but I do have a limited number of hours of the day. This gives me the flexibility and the ability to do it at my own speed.” The ministry is fueled by faith and donations. Monthly financial support from Powdersville First Baptist helps buy age-appropriate Bibles that, along with other items, are also given to the girls. Ninety-nine percent of the dolls the ministry distributes are donated. The ministry itself is a way for the Hubbards to let the girls know that God and a lot of people love and care about them. That they’re not forgotten.
"It’s not about us
" Mrs. Hubbard said. “It’s not even about the doll. First and foremost, it’s about God. Secondly, it’s about them
.” The ministry has helped the couple learn a lot about foster care and the different organizations that cater to foster children. The Hubbards are never told of the circumstances in which a child is taken into foster care. They just know that the children don’t have a choice. “Nobody asks them, ‘Do you want to be yanked up and taken here or there?' That’s just the way it is for their safety and their protection
,” she said. One question the Hubbards are often asked is why donate such a pricey doll to the girls. Some American Girl dolls can cost as much as $300. Mrs. Hubbard’s answer: “Why do these little girls not deserve anything like our grandchildren? Why should they get anything less?
She’s also truly amazed at how God has blessed the ministry. “I could literally sit here all day long and tell you God stories of how we’ve seen it over and over again,” Mrs. Hubbard said.
She recalled when the ministry was still very young and decided to take on Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. “When we take on a home, if they have 12 little girls, we plan for 12 donations in one day,” Mrs. Hubbard said.
On the way to Connie Maxwell, they had four dolls on hand. Miracle Hill called and said they had a new little girl, so the Hubbards were down to three. Connie Maxwell needed 12. “So Frank says, ‘I’ll be honest with you. We only have three dolls right now, so it will be a few months before we can get back,’” Mrs. Hubbard said. “My mouth opens and out came the following words, ‘We’ll be back in about 30 days.’ He looks at me like, ‘You know something I don’t know?’” “I was looking at myself trying to figure out how did that come out, because I didn’t know where they were coming from,” she said. Back at home that day, Mrs. Hubbard checked her email to find a note from a woman whose daughter had given the ministry a doll a year before. The email said: “Oh, Sandra, I am so sorry I haven't gotten back with you. I should’ve done so before now but yesterday, my daughter went to school and challenged her track team. I put you 12 dolls in the mail. They should be there by Thursday.” The couple had asked a small group at their church to pray for a need they had. They didn’t mention the dolls. They didn’t mention the ministry. When the UPS man arrived that Thursday with 12 American Girl dolls, “We sat on our front porch and cried like babies,” Mrs. Hubbard said. “If that’s not God, I don’t know what is.”