Optimist Club collects suitcases for foster kids

Optimist Club collects suitcases for foster kids

Originally published by the Macomb Daily News — December 21, 2015

Optimist Club Collects Luggage for Friends of Foster Kids
The Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores recently collected suitcases and duffle bags for foster children. Pictured are, from left to right: Debbie DePape, president of the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores; Sean Zaborowski, Lakeview athletic director; Lakeview Superintendent Karl Paulson; and Janice Drewek, club member.

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.

Shelving Inc Celebrates #GivingTuesday At Friends Of Foster Kids

Shelving Inc Celebrates #GivingTuesday At Friends Of Foster Kids

Originally Published by The Shelving Guy Blog –December 1, 2015

Theresa FOFK

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!

The Utica-Shelby Township Kiwanis Club’s 25th annual Bids for Kids charity auction is Dec. 4

The Utica-Shelby Township Kiwanis Club’s 25th annual Bids for Kids charity auction is Dec. 4

An excerpt from, The Macomb Daily Article, SERVICE CIRCUIT: Sterling Heights Lions offer vets ‘opportunity to service community’ –November 13, 2015

By Linda May, For The Macomb Daily

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 lestergilbert@hotmail.com.

Friends of Foster Kids Fundraiser

Friends of Foster Kids Fundraiser


Sterling Heights, MI (WXYZ) – Michigan has more than 3,000 children in the foster care system hoping and waiting to be adopted.

The Macomb County based “Friends of Foster Kids” is trying to support them.

You can help their cause this weekend.

The organization is holding its annual fundraiser Thursday October 29th at the Freedom Hill Banquet Center.

Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by calling (586) 307-GIFT.

More information can be found online: www.FriendsofFosterKids.com

Theresa Toia Columbus Day Humanitarian of the Year

Theresa Toia Columbus Day Humanitarian of the Year


By: The Italian American Cultural Society

Theresa Toia

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.

Bringing Christmas to those who need it

Bringing Christmas to those who need it

Group makes sure kids in foster care receive presents

Originally published in C & G Newspapers – November 3, 2014

BY: Sarah Wojcik

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.

To find out more information about Friends of Foster Kids or upcoming fundraisers, visitwww.friendsoffosterkids.org. To get involved with volunteering or assisting financially, email fofkvolunteer@gmail.com.

Roger’s Roost hosts road rally to benefit foster children

Roger's Roost
The gang at Roger’s Roost gears up for Saturday’s Road Rally to benefit Friends of Foster Kids. Manager Ryan Compton poses with servers Christina Bentley, Alicia Seignuerie and barback Tony DeMaria. MITCH HOTTS — THE MACOMB DAILY

Roger’s Roost hosts road rally to benefit foster children



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 raynay9971@aol.com or call 586-979-7550.

Organization to help foster kids move into Macomb

Organization to help foster kids move into Macomb



Laura Hartman, a foster care worker, said she took part of Dec. 9 off to volunteer as a wrapper for Friends of Foster Kids. Hartman said she will deliver 15 sacks of gifts to children this year. (Photo by NICOLE TUTTLE)
Laura Hartman, a foster care worker, said she took part of Dec. 9 off to volunteer as a wrapper for Friends of Foster Kids. Hartman said she will deliver 15 sacks of gifts to children this year. (Photo 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 ntuttle.reporter@sbcglobal.net

COUNTY: Nonprofit to provide gifts for nearly 900 foster kids this holiday season

COUNTY: Nonprofit to provide gifts for nearly 900 foster kids this holiday season



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Some might argue that Santa’s workshop isn’t at the North Pole, but rather it’s located off 23 Mile Road in Macomb Township.

A small workshop tucked within the former Nachi Machining Building is the temporary home to Friends of Foster Kids, a Macomb County nonprofit whose mission is to provide wrapped Christmas gifts for children in foster care.

This isn’t a small operation. Theresa Toia, director of Friends of Foster Kids, said the nonprofit will give presents to approximately 900 foster children and young adults this year.
The nonprofit works closely with foster care workers from the Department of Human Services and other agencies, who provide “wish lists” for kids in their care. The lists usually include a child’s name, age, gender, size and a few items the child wants or needs for Christmas.

“It’s more than a Christmas gift. It’s knowing that someone cares, that they (foster children) are not alone, and knowing that there are people who will help. These kids have no family; we are their family,” Toia said.

Needed items range from winter coats, hats and mittens, to sheets, pillowcases and even things such as new underwear and pillows. Items the children wish for may include anything from a new bicycle to an electronic tablet.

A young adult is in foster care until age 21 and wish lists for young people may include new tires, household items and even expensive electronic devices, which one might use to develop skills or even find a job.

Friends of Foster Kids accepts donations of new toys, clothes, personal care products and more at its office at Nachi, 17500 23 Mile Road. Drop-off hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The group also accepts cash from service clubs, businesses and individuals to buy items. Toia and partner Karen Szczotka may ask retailers for discounts, or shop for items year-round to find the best prices.

The items are stored, sorted and wrapped at the Friends of Foster Kids office, which moves to a new workshop location every year. Toia started the nonprofit out of her home in 2007 after learning from her daughter, a foster care case worker, that there were a number of foster kids who didn’t receive Christmas presents.

Toia teamed with Szczotka and the nonprofit continued to grow until they were unable to operate out of Toia’s home. The duo search for donated warehouse or office space every year to run the nonprofit.

It’s in that donated space that the Christmas magic begins for Macomb County foster kids. Numerous new toys, racks of new coats, games, bins of clothes and hat-and-scarf sets, and even a small room of bicycles await preparation.

Volunteers – whom Toia calls Christmas angels – spend weeks prior to Christmas going over wish lists, shopping, wrapping and bagging items for case workers, who deliver wrapped gifts to the foster kids.

“I am fortunate that I was always able to provide for my son. I feel there are too many kids out there that need things that people can’t afford to buy them. I feel we should help,” said volunteer Sophia Uhlman, who spent an afternoon wrapping gifts.

While the nonprofit always welcomes volunteers and donations, the public has the opportunity to help Friends of Foster Kids and have fun. On Dec. 21, Sky Zone, a new indoor trampoline park located at 50810 Sabrina Dr. in Shelby Township, will host a fundraiser for the nonprofit in which they will donate $7 of the $14 they charge for one hour of bounce time. The community is welcome to bounce anytime during the day.

Donations of new gifts, cash, wrapping paper, ribbon, boxes and supplies are always needed. For information or to shop for a specific item, call Friends of Foster Kids at 586-307-4483, or visit the website at friendsoffosterkids.org or its Facebook page.