Friends of Foster Kids Fundraiser

Friends of Foster Kids Fundraiser

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY WXYZ CHANNEL 7 – OCTOBER 26, 2015

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

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE ITALIAN AMERICAN MONTHLY NEWSPAPER— OCTOBER 2015

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

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MACOMB DAILY – SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

BY: MITCH HOTTS

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

ORIGINALLY POSTED BY THE VOICE  – DECEMBER 17, 2013

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)
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

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE ADVISOR & SOURCE NEWSPAPER — NOVEMBER 29, 2013

BY: DEBRA KASZUBSKI

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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.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP: Knitting club assists Macomb foster kids

MACOMB TOWNSHIP: Knitting club assists Macomb foster kids

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN THE ADVISOR & SOURCE NEWSPAPERS — NOVEMBER 14, 2013

BY: NICOLE TUTTLE

Chicks with Sticks members Terry Sands and Vera Lesinski continue their knitting projects for Friends of Foster Kids while surrounded by the efforts of the club for that organization.
Chicks with Sticks members Terry Sands and Vera Lesinski continue their knitting projects for Friends of Foster Kids while surrounded by the efforts of the club for that organization.

Given the volume of stacked boxes filled with knitted blankets, mittens, scarves and hats stuffed into a room of the Marvin Blank Senior Center in Macomb Township, one might easily assume that the Chicks with Sticks knitting group was preparing for a trip to the North Pole. And they are, sort of.

The Chicks have decided to play Santa this year to Friends of Foster Kids, donating the handmade items of its 36 members on Nov. 21. Chicks with Sticks founding member Carol Milkowski said the group decided to donate to a single charity at Christmas in August, when a member brought in a pamphlet from Friends of Foster Kids.

“It seemed like it was meant to be for us,” Milkowski said. “We do so much knitting and crocheting, it is a very worthwhile organization to give to.”

Milkowski said that after reviewing the pamphlet, she contacted Friends of Foster Kids founder and director Theresa Toia and invited her to speak before the group. Milkowski said Toia impressed upon the Chicks how badly foster children need the items they can make.

“They do not have anything or anyone. So we made more,” Milkowski said.

Friends of Foster Kids is a Macomb County-based charity created with the goal of assisting local foster children. Toia said the organization obtains a building with utilities donated from October to January for its efforts. This year the donated building is located on 23 Mile Road in Macomb Township.

“We get children that come into custody that are not in a permanently placed situation,” Toia said. “There is no funding or program to provide them a Christmas. The state of Michigan provides each family that houses those children $25 for a Christmas. So we try to make them feel special one day a year.”

Toia said last year Friends of Foster Kids assisted approximately 900 children. Foster care case workers provide Friends of Foster Kids with the first names, ages, gender, sizes and wish lists of foster kids they supervise, and donors are asked to provide a child with gifts from the list, according to the Friends of Foster Kids website. Gifts for each child must be wrapped and labeled with the child’s first name, age and the case worker’s code number, according to the website. The gifts are then distributed to the foster care workers, who deliver the gifts.

“All of the kids need winter things, scarves and hats. We go by age range to find out where they should go,” Toia said.

Toia said she is particularly pleased to be receiving donations from Chicks with Sticks, as the group offers handmade items.

“I love when people give me homemade things they make as a hobby,” Toia said.

Nancy Nevers, a Macomb Township trustee and president of the Shelby-Macomb Daybreakers Kiwanis Club, said the club does fundraisers throughout the year and selected to donate some funds to Chicks with Sticks to provide yarn and materials for the group’s projects. Milkowski said the Chicks also accept donations from the community.

Nevers said that in October, Toia made a presentation to the Kiwanis Club and she discovered that Chicks with Sticks planned on donating a large number of bins filled with knitted items to Friends of Foster Kids.

“My Kiwanis group gives them money for the yarn and materials to do these fine acts of charity,” Never said.

Milkowski said although there is not an exact count of the items made by the Chicks, the group tried to make things in various sizes to accommodate the Friends of Foster Kids children, who range in age from infants to age 20.

“This is our biggest donation ever to just one charity,” Milkowski said.

Chicks with Sticks is also planning to donate hygiene products, clothing and toys to Friends of Foster Kids, Milkowski said.

Nevers said the Shelby-Macomb Daybreakers Kiwanis Club plans to assist Friends of Foster Kids as a holiday project as well.

Nicole Tuttle is a freelance reporter. She can be contacted at ntuttle.reporter@sbcglobal.net