Carrying their belongings from home to home is an unfortunate fact of life for foster children, but thanks to the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores and Friends of Foster Kids, at least they’ll carry them in style.
As the Christmas holidays approached, club members set out to collect new and “gently used” suitcases and duffle bags so children will have a piece of luggage to call their own.
Optimist Club members and central office administrators from Lakeview Public Schools collected 20 duffle bags and 16 suitcases and turned them over to Friends of Foster Kids.
Since 2007, Friends of Foster Kids has donated over 10,000 presents each holiday season to children who are in foster care, and in need. The charity was founded by Theresa Toia, who’s daughter Jessica is a caseworker for foster children in Macomb County, Michigan. Jessica expressed concern to her mother when her entire caseload of children were not receiving a Christmas for the second year in a row due to the recession, and most had never experienced a Christmas at all. Theresa immediately wanted to find a way to help, and teamed up with her friends to start the charity and begin receiving wishlists from foster kids all over Southeast Michigan.
Solely through donations and volunteering, Friends of Foster Kids has annually helped an estimated 1,000 foster kids each holiday season. While many are infants and children, FoFK has also reached out to teenagers and young adults who have lived their life in foster care and are still struggling to find a place to live and afford everyday essentials.
Caseworkers work with the kids to carefully craft wishlists of three or four presents they’d like the most. Through the goodness of their hearts, volunteers pick up a list and seek out as many presents as they can. Then, the presents are brought to FoFK where volunteers carefully wrap each present and add extra essentials to their stockings like blankets, coats, handmade scarves and more.
Mike Schodowski, our Vice President of Sales, met Theresa earlier this year and was moved after learning about the charity and why she started it. He asked how he could help, and Shelving Inc donated 25 rivet shelving units to store donations and presents at the Friends of Foster Kids headquarters. Theresa was extremely grateful and said keeping everything organized and easy-to-find has been incredibly helpful.
If you’d like to help a foster child in need, volunteer or donate please contact Friends of Foster Kids. They accept donations year-round and try to help just as often, too. Celebrate #GivingTuesday by giving back, too!
Mr. Ledbetter and Coach Steinwascher received this note and photos from “Friends of Foster Kids” aboutFALCON athletes and parents stepping up to help where needed! WELL DONE FALCONS!
Teri & Dave,
We cannot thank you enough for being our Angel Volunteers!
I am forever grateful for the last second help that you supplied for us at “Friends of Foster Kids“. We were extremely impressed at the attitudes, work ethic, and respect of the students that helped us on Sat.
The time, energy and enthusiasm shown to the athletes by you, Henry and the parent volunteers shows a wonderful example of compassion and goodwill.
Teri-I have attached a few of the pictures we took, but I’m sure yours are much better. Please make sure these pictures, and the story behind the pictures, are shared with whoever manages the Falcon websites and newspapers.
Lisa Larson Friends of Foster Kids FALCON Parent
The Utica-Shelby Township Kiwanis Club’s 25th annual Bids for Kids charity auction is Dec. 4 at the Palazzo Grande Banquet Hall, 54660 Van Dyke Avenue, Shelby Township. This year the club shares proceeds with Friends of Foster Kids and Play-Place for Autistic Children. Tickets are $65 and include hors d’oeuvres, raw bar, carving and pasta stations, salads and vegetables, dessert table, flavored coffees and premium beverages, silent and live auction, and entertainment. For further information, contact Lester Gilbert at 586-731-7450 or email@example.com.
Theresa Toia will be honored as Columbus Day Humanitarian of the Year. The owner/operator of Franklin Interiors, Inc., specializing in Interior Design and Decoration for residential and commercial properties, she previously served as the 2008 President of the Columbus Day Celebration Committee. She has been, as she says, “enhancing living and work environments” for over 27 years.
Being very active in the community, she is also president of various sports organizations. Toia is a member of the Americans of Italian Origin Society, Ladies of Harley-Wolverine Chapter, the Father Solanus Guild and the Gorgeous Smorgeous Girls Ladies Charity Club. Having served as a Director on the Shelby Community Foundation for severalyears, Toia has also been the vice chair of this 501c (3) foundation and served as chair of the Development Committee, building relationships in the community.
In 2006, after hearing heart-breaking stories from her daughter, a case worker working in the social services system, Theresa Toia and friends, Karen Szczotka and Michele Little of Shelby Township started “Friends of Foster Kids.” Thousands of Metro Detroit foster children go without Christmas gifts each year. When most local kids are opening their X-boxes and iPods, many children in the foster care system receive nothing at all. Solely through donations and volunteers, the non-profit group has worked to provide a Christmas for Macomb County foster children, and let them know that they are not forgotten, for the past five holiday seasons.
Toia is happily married to her husband Joseph Toia, an attorney, who was recently named to the Macomb County Circuit Court. They have two daughters, Jessica (Toia) Rossow and Marissa Toia. Theresa Toia enjoys a wonderful relationship with all three of her grandchildren Joseph, Michael and Abigayle. In 2008, Michael was Young Columbus. Toia is very proud of her Italian heritage and the opportunity to promote and celebrate its traditions.
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The nonprofit group Friends of Foster Kids is looking for volunteers to “adopt” a foster child or two this Christmas by sponsoring their wish lists, wrapping presents, donating or just lending a helping hand where needed.
With about 769 foster children in the Macomb County system and 181 licensed foster homes, Friends of Foster Kids Director Theresa Toia said many children shuffle through temporary foster homes, shelters and group homes, and receive little to nothing for Christmas.
“They’re placed all over, as far out as Saginaw and Kalamazoo, so all of the local foster children are not only removed from their families and everything they know in this world, but now they’re removed from their friends from school, and that’s the sadness of it,” Toia said.
She said many foster kids have few material possessions and that some have never experienced a “proper” Christmas before, so they don’t know what to ask for. She said foster care workers work with their caseloads to identify three or four items they would like and also include the kids’ interests and passions.
“They are victims of abuse and neglect,” Toia said. “They did nothing wrong to be in this situation, and most people forget that.”
Since beginning Friends of Foster Kids in 2007 as a grassroots operation out of her Shelby Township basement after being inspired by her daughter’s caseload of foster kids receiving nothing for Christmas, Toia said the organization has grown exponentially.
She estimated that hundreds of volunteers help about 1,000 foster children each Christmas.
Kristine Powers, the volunteer coordinator with Friends of Foster Kids, said she has been on board since the operation established its roots and that most of the expansion spread through word-of-mouth.
“It’s a really great feeling (to help these kids),” she said. “So many of us have kids of our own. I can’t imagine what these kids have been through.”
Powers said that from Dec. 3-17, Friends of Foster Kids is looking for volunteers to wrap presents at the Foam Factory, located at 23 Mile and Romeo Plank roads in Macomb Township, in two-hour shifts from noon-8 p.m. weekdays and from noon-6 p.m. Saturdays.
Roger’s Roost sports bar in Sterling Heights is hosting a Road Rally Barbecue on Saturday to benefit a nonprofit that works to help the community’s foster children.
The event starts at 3 p.m. at the Roost and concludes with a barbecue dinner at 6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit Friends of Foster Kids, a Macomb County-based charity that finds donors to donate Christmas presents to displaced foster kids.
“They work with case workers from the Michigan Department of Human Services to find foster kids and they make a Christmas wish list for the kids for the holidays,” said Renee Murray, a bartender at Roger’s who is coordinating Saturday’s event. “We’re helping Friends of Foster Kids to come up with the funding for the gifts.”
For the road rally, teams of four will drive around town photographing themselves performing crazy tasks. At least 12 teams have signed up so far, organizers said.
“We’re doing this for the kids who aren’t as privileged as many, and want to give them a great Christmas as well,” said Ryan Compton, a manager at the restaurant.
After the road rally, the teams return to the restaurant for a barbecue dinner of hot dogs, burgers, and pulled pork, a pig roast and more.
The cost is $30 per person for the road rally or $15 for the dinner only. Check-in starts at 3 p.m., the rally begins at 4 and the dinner is served about 6 p.m.
Roger’s Roost is located at 33626 Schoenherr Road, Sterling Heights. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 586-979-7550.
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Friends of Foster Kids, a Shelby-based nonprofit group, works year-round to provide items to foster children in southeast Michigan.
Since December, four local Cadette Girl Scouts endeavored to create a race and family fun day at River Bends Park May 3 to benefit the Friends of Foster Kids. The Scouts started the initiative to earn the Silver Award, the second-highest award in Girl Scouts.
Meghan Lytle, Emma Kohler-Lewis, Allison Creek and Kayla Colussi put in more than 200 hours to plan and organize the event.
The 5k run/walk will take place at 8 a.m., and the family-fun event will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and include carnival games, police finger printing, police and fire demonstrations, a princess meet-and-greet, music, face painting, and more.
The girls also will be collecting donations of pajamas, socks, underwear, winter clothing, toiletries, twin sheets, blankets, pillows and grants for Friends of Foster Kids.
For the past three years, Girl Scouts leader Sue Lytle said she and her troop have wrapped Christmas presents and sponsored foster children through the organization.
“I love the fact that it’s children helping children. There’s a certain symmetry to it that’s beautiful,” said Friends of Foster Kids Director Theresa Toia. “This was a huge undertaking for these ladies, and I’m impressed with everything they’ve done thus far.”
Toia said her organization assists upwards of 900 children annually who live in temporary homes or foster care after being removed from situations of abuse and neglect.
“I can’t even believe what these children have had to endure,” Toia said. “After you meet one child that has received a gift or help in some form, you realize the huge impact it has on these children to know they’re not alone and not forgotten, and there are people that do care out there.”
Toia said the organization was born when her daughter, a foster care caseworker, said that her whole caseload of children did not receive Christmas presents for the second year in a row during the recession.
Through word of mouth, hundreds of volunteers donated time and items to create specifically tailored Christmas wish lists to more children each year. Now, the organization supplies children with items year-round.
With children “aging out” of the foster care system, a large portion of the work the organization does also is directed at supplementing children’s apartments and dorm rooms.
“I feel like we’re slowly changing how people live,” Kohler-Lewis said. “To know that we’re helping people (is my favorite part). We’re not just doing it for ourselves.”