Christmas,Macomb County, Michigan,Foster care,Child

Friends of Foster kids 'build' a Christmas

December 25, 2016
in Kids

(Photo: Sean Work, Special to the Free Press) Theresa Toia remembers the day 10 years ago when she first learned that some children weren’t celebrating Christmas. Her oldest daughter, then a Macomb County foster caseworker, broke the news. She told me that, “for the second year in a row, the children on her caseload did not receive a Christmas,” Toia recalled. “And I said, ‘Oh my God, Jessica, why didn’t you tell me before now?!’” “She said, ‘Why? You can’t go out and buy all these kids gifts.'” More from Rochelle Riley: But that is exactly what Toia, with the initial help of friends across her Italian community, did. She founded Friends of Foster Kids, a charity whose mission is to grant foster children’s wishes. That first year, she rounded up gifts for 47 children. This year, the charity provided Christmas to nearly 1,400. There were 1,370 foster children in Macomb and Oakland counties — the areas the charity serves — as of the end of November, Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erica Quealy said. That’s about 10% of the nearly 13,000 kids in foster care across the state. “I’m blessed to know many generous people,” Toia, 61, said in an interview. “I said, ‘They’ll take a child and build a Christmas.’ I said, ‘This is not going to happen any more.’ ” Social worker Bobbi Mitchell, left, and Friends of Foster Care volunteer Rick Blok, right, load bags of presents for delivery to foster care clients on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 at Friends of Foster Care's Macomb Township location. (Photo: Sean Work, Special to the Free Press) I love that phrase: build a Christmas. We build buildings. We build lives, but do we ever stop to think about all the ways we should build lives: character, hope, dreams — and for a child, Christmas wishes. The Friends of Foster Kids is among hundreds of giving programs sponsored by charities, churches and community groups at this time of year. I just shopped for four of the 2,200 children to whom Triumph Church is distributing gifts this week. Armed only with a list of ages, sizes and wishes, I tackled the task like I was buying for family. I will never know the looks on the children’s faces or hear squeals of glee, except in my heart. But that counts enough for me. And if you’re not doing it for someone, you should consider it. It feels so good. The way the Friends program works is simple: Toia and hundreds of volunteers — friends and acquaintances she has collected through the years — set up shop in their space in a Macomb Township complex that is shared by St. John’s Medical Center and the Foam...

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