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.
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.
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.”
ORIGINALLY POSTED IN THE ADVISOR & SOURCE NEWSPAPERS — NOVEMBER 14, 2013
BY: NICOLE TUTTLE
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.