denim uggs Kiwanis helps foster kids with needs and holiday wishes
The Friends of Foster Kids provides a Christmas for children in the foster care system who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect and are placed in temporary housing or shelters. Many have no family and no place to live. Kiwanis, Optimist and Lions clubs help them with some of their basic needs, and some of their wishes.
The Utica Shelby Kiwanis Club recently received an update from Theresa Toia, the founder of the nonprofit Friends of Foster Kids, an organization the club supports in different ways.
Toia said that, from Macomb County alone, there are approximately 900 children in foster care each year. Many say they have never received a Christmas gift. So, at this time of year, volunteers try to get those wish list things into a Santa red duffel.
One young woman who was in foster care said she was amazed she got all three things on her wish list. In spite of her early life with a mother who was an addict, the young woman is now living independently and working at a counseling job.
Foster children need clothing like winter coats, boots and pajamas. They also need personal care items, pillows and blankets, duffel bags. They want toys and games and sports items. Some have never had a bicycle, a doll or toy truck, and the babies need development toys.
We are fortunate that lots of organizations support us, and we work from a donated building, with donated shelving, Toia said.
They include the Mount Clemens Kiwanis Club, and the Central Macomb Optimist Club.
The Shelby Macomb Daybreakers Kiwanis has been especially moved by Theresa Toia s effort to help Foster Kids, club president Nancy Nevers said. When you understand these children are often moved from family to family and perhaps don t even have their own pillow or blanket, it really tugs at your heart. Theresa has recently launched another project helping foster kids who have aged out of the program. Most people don t consider what happens to those kids who at 18 are cut lose and they are on their own. That program really got our attention. We all remember these kids at Christmas, but they need to be remembered year round and we are committed to do just that.
Friends of Foster Kids more than fits the Kiwanis mission statement dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. We are a global organization of volunteers, and our immediate focus is helping needy children in our community. Our members hands and hearts help those who cannot always help themselves.
A group of people called Chicks with Sticks knit and crochet, then donate items to Friends of Foster Kids.
We also sponsor the Chicks with Sticks in their philanthropy. We fund their efforts, Nevers said.
The Daybreakers meet two mornings and two evenings throughout the month.
The Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores recently hosted its second no sew fleece blanket making party. About 30 men and women came out to make blankets for foster children. Also, people dropped off blankets, sheets, pillowcases, pillows, clothing, toys, personal items, suitcases and duffle bags which will all go to the Friends of Foster Kids.
The Utica Shelby Township Optimists take 20 kids, Toia said. We have lots of support from Lions in general. The Shelby Township Lions Club just sent us a check. My husband is with the Utica Shelby Kiwanis. That s how I got introduced to them as a service club and that s why they have been aware of our organization from the onset. The Utica Shelby Kiwanis Club already had 15 kids wish lists, and they gave us $5,000 from their recent raffle,
Dinner for Two Anywhere in World. All of these wonderful generous angels are working for these children.
We are trying to do Oakland County as well. Last year, we took care of over 1,200 children at Christmas. We got red cleaners bags with drawstrings and each child got a Santa bag gift specifically filled for them, she said.
We work with the Department of Human Services and others that deal with placement. We have lists with the child s first name, age, gender, size, and the children put down three wishes along with their special needs or interests. The little ones might get a LeapFrog and LeapPad, trucks and trains or set of LEGOs, Ninja Turtles and Batman, doll houses and baby dolls with strollers and diapers. Some love to build things or do arts and crafts. Each child gets to feel special, even if it s just for one day.
The older ones are asking for UGG type boots, iPads and other electronics with ear buds. The older ones rely on us for electronics. Without a tablet and WiFi you can t even apply for a job. You don t do that in person any more. In most cases, we re all they have. They ask for jeans and winter coats, Timberland boots the waterproof ones that keep your feet dry and warm and last forever.
They don t want the other kids at school to know they are foster kids from abuse and neglect. They want to dress like the other kids and want them to think they have families. Some can t stay in the same school system when they are moved around to different homes and facilities. They lose their friends and nothing is stable in their lives, even the caseworkers which have a great turnover, she said.
There was this 17 year old. All he wanted was Nike shoes. He opened his red Santa bag and just stared for a minute. We asked if there was something wrong and he said no, that he just had never received a wrapped gift ever in his life. When you think that volunteering isn t important, it makes you wish that you had been the one to wrap that gift with extra care and special ribbons.
This beautiful young man with a beautiful personality got a job and set himself up in an apartment. He got a car but has to drive a bike to work because he makes $1,200 a month and his car insurance is $3,800 a month. These kids can t get a family discount because they don t have families.
The older kids are what we have the largest impact on, Toia said. They are so generous with their younger siblings. They want to split their gifts with their little brothers and sisters so they don t have to struggle as much. They hover over them like a parent, she said.
Kiwanis sponsors shopping trip
The Utica Shelby Kiwanis Club is providing a special Christmas for 20 families by taking them on a shopping spree on Dec. 10 at a local Walmart store. The club is a sponsor of the Shelby Township Jingle Bell Run on Dec. 18 that benefits Utica area charities.
Brad Suggs, principal of West Utica Elementary School, recently expressed his appreciation for what the club does for the school paying for food for students, and reading books to them, providing more than $10,000 in books to the students, backpacks containing school supplies, providing business prospective on Career Focus Day. Members supported its running club, and STEM Program.
The club says that every $10 donation purchases 36 snacks or purchases dozens of books for students or feeds a family of a half dozen packaged meals. Ten dollars purchases one backpack filled with school supplies; buys 10 water bottles for students participating in the after school running program, or purchases scarves, hats and mittens for two children.
Buy gift cards for foster teens
The Mount Clemens Kiwanis Club gift card drive for Macomb County foster care teens asks for $10 and $20 cards for restaurants, stores and malls and movie theaters. Cards may be dropped off to Jill Johnson at Printing By Johnson, 1430 South Gratiot Ave., Mount Clemens. Club members are ringing Salvation Army kettle bells on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 at a Walmart store.