ORIGINALLY POSTED BY THE VOICE – DECEMBER 17, 2013
BY: NICOLE TUTTLE
Macomb Township may be a long way from the North Pole, but Friends of Foster Kids volunteers are working as quickly as Santa’s elves to complete wish lists from local children.
Friends of Foster Kids founder and director Theresa Toia said each year the organization obtains a building with utilities donated from about October to January for their efforts. This year the donated building came from The Foam Factory and is located on 23 Mile Road in Macomb Township.
“We have building space that is donated and we receive gifts from donors,” Toia said.
Toia said that foster children that come into custody are not in a permanently placed situation, and that there is no funding or program to provide them with a Christmas as the state only provides each foster family with $25 for the holidays. Friends of Foster Kids plans to assist about 700 children throughout Macomb County this year, according to Toia. Gifts will also be provided for about 50 Oakland County children who have been abused. Toia said that the organization is 100 percent volunteer and all money donated goes towards assisting children.
Foster care case workers provide Friends of Foster Kids with the first names, last initials, ages, gender, sizes and wish lists of foster kids they supervise, and donors are asked to provide a child with gifts from the three-item wish list, said Toia.
“Each child gets their own personalized Christmas according to the wish list,” she said.
The bags of gifts are sorted by caseworker as caseworkers deliver the gifts, according to Toia.
“If the child needed a coat and boots and did not get it, we find funding and purchase it for them,” Toia said. “Then we bag everything in big red Santa bags. The wrappers come and wrap them and put them back into the bags. They are sorted by caseworker and the caseworkers pick up the bags when they are completed and deliver them before Christmas.”
Volunteers to wrap gifts come from a variety of different sources, including companies according to Toia. She said that Macomb Community College employees have not only provided gifts from children’s wish lists, but have also volunteered to come in groups for wrapping.
Foster care worker Laura Hartman and her mother Lenora Trudeau volunteered to wrap gifts on Dec. 9. Hartman said she delivers 15 bags to children in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties, and has delivered to children as far away as Kalamazoo in the past. Hartman said that she often makes the deliveries during home visits and families hide the items until Christmas.
Hartman said that she helps children draw up their lists and often consults with relations or foster parents in the process.
“There is usually one big ticket item,” Hartman said.
The children usually get what they ask for and more, Hartman said.
Anne Lally, Donna Holien and Fran McQuade also volunteered to wrap presents on Dec. 9, as did many other members of their pinochle club.
Holien said she learned about the Friends of Foster Kids last year, and that she and her daughter have “adopted” families for two years.
“Our card club decided to sponsor a child… We also volunteered to wrap,” Lally said.
To donate or wrap gifts contact Toia at (586) 307-4438.
Nicole Tuttle is a freelance reporter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org