MACOMB COUNTY — One organization wants foster children to know that they are wanted and deserve the same amount of attention and love that other children receive.
Friends of Foster Kids, a Macomb County-based charity that strives to help children less fortunate, makes its mark year-round. But when the holiday season arrives annually, there exists an extra spark to help others even more.
This is done as part of the Spirit of Christmas program, which started in 2007 just before the economic downturn. With foster children already at risk of experiencing displacement from their homes and families due to abuse or neglect, it became a goal to provide some semblance of a Christmas season to heal wounds and assure that people in the community care for them.
“We grew from 40-something kids that first year to almost 900 annually,” said founder Theresa Toia. “There are different organizations that we help with, as well, spread into different counties. This is our main program. … Helping spread needs of older children (who) need to become self-supporting and good members of community, and they support the program.”
Toia recalled a discussion she had her with daughter, a case worker who dealt with foster children at the Macomb County Department of Human Services, in 2007 and could not fathom that Christmas joy did not reach every child.
“If you think about being a child without a family and guidance, where would you have been?” Toia said. “(Kids) 12 and up may not find a permanent home, but we try to make them feel special at least one day of the year.
“No matter how much money we had (when I was younger), we were always very loving and very happy.”
Toia credits her close friends and volunteers for helping her make the charity into what it has become, saying she never could have done it herself.
It’s also integral to give the children a roof to enjoy their gifts in the right manner.
Kathleen Morehouse is a volunteer for Friends of Foster Kids, helping fundraise and getting the word out for others to possibly adopt a foster child and give them a dream Christmas.
The process involves case workers receiving wish lists from foster children, then prompting volunteer shoppers to find the best possible prices for gifts in accordance with undetermined amounts in cash donations. Shelving space and a wrapping area are provided at Foam Factory off Hall Road in Clinton Township. Then, children get wrapped duffle bags and, on any given day, receive their gifts.
“We do so much work in a small place and small amount of time, but the hands are many,” Morehouse said. “Children are the victims who get kicked out of their houses, but years later hearing the stories, it makes you want to do it all the time.”
The charity tries to have gifts wrapped by the first week of December, but they embrace gifts throughout the entire holiday season. If you’d like to donate to the cause, log on to the website at www.friendsoffosterkids.org and donate through PayPal.
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