Children in foster care have a special place in Angie Galpin’s heart.
She grew up in a home that fostered children, and she says she hoped to one day be a foster parent herself.
“But it wasn’t in God’s plan,” she said.
Instead, Galpin has made it her job to “love on them” in other ways.
If she can give them a “special Christmas,” she considers it an honor and a blessing.
The nonprofit Every Child Jackson County has joined forces with area churches and local businesses, including Galpin’s House to Home Gallery in Medford, to ensure that every child in foster care in the county experiences joy on Christmas morning. All 526 children will receive a present and a $25 gift card through the organization’s “Foster the Love campaign.”
Snowmen trees, decorated with tags listing the gender and age of each child, have been placed in five Rogue Valley locations: House to Home Gallery, 300 E. Barnett Road, Medford; Heritage Christian Fellowship, 943 Automation Way, Suite A, Medford; Rockwell Real Estate, 229 N. Bartlett St., Medford; Mary’s BBQ Place, 841 E. Pine St., Central Point; and Liege Waffle Restaurant, 150 S. Oregon St., Jacksonville.
The idea is for people to grab a tag, purchase a gift and then return to the location to place the gift under the tree — or leave a donation to help fund Every Child’s last-minute Christmas shopping spree.
Black Bird Shopping Center, 1810 W. Main St., Medford, has a gift card box available.
Medford radio station 101.5 WOLF has teamed up with advertisers as co-sponsors, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is providing support, as well.
The campaign ends Dec. 9.
More than 11,000 Oregon children spent time in foster care last year. Sixty-six percent spent time in more than one home. Many are separated from siblings and other family members during the holiday season.
The goal, organizers say, is to let each child know they “deserve to be loved and deserve to feel the joy of the holiday season.”
“We know a gift does not replace the loss and struggle these children are experiencing,” said Cynthia Wright, a volunteer liaison with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Every Child. “But gifts and the special moments of opening brightly wrapped presents on Christmas morning absolutely help children and youth feel special and not forgotten.”
In 2017, the local Every Child chapter partnered with Department of Human Services caseworkers to deliver presents and gift cards to more than 530 children and teens.
Thanks to the campaign, Tammy Wallace was able to buy clothes for the baby her family fostered last Christmas. But the caseworker’s apparent joy in delivering a gift for the child made it even more memorable to Wallace.
“We have an amazing community that has come along to support children in foster care and families who foster,” said Lynette Hasse, executive director of Every Child Jackson County.
Every Child has 15 chapters statewide, including in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Douglas counties. The goal is to be established in all 36 Oregon counties by 2022.
The Jackson County organization operates under the umbrella of Life Compass of Jackson County.
Every Child was launched in 2016, and is modeled after Embrace Oregon’s success in Portland and the metropolitan area. The nonprofit has three main goals: engage the community in caring for foster children, support foster families and show hospitality and appreciation to DHS workers.
Foster children, said Hasse, “need to be shown they are valued. ... They have worth.”
In addition to Foster the Love, the Jackson County group assembles “Welcome Boxes” — shoeboxes or small boxes filled with personal-hygiene supplies, toys, stuffed animals, flashlights, night lights, socks or other essentials for children and teens as they move from one placement to another.
“Baby Bags” provide for newly placed infants.
Other projects include “Launch Boxes” for young adults who have aged out of welfare and are now moving out on their own. These include basic supplies, from laundry soap to cleaning supplies and other household goods. Under Wright’s leadership, the youth group from the LDS church recently filled 50 totes of supplies — 35 went to young people in Jackson County, and the other 15 were donated to the Josephine County chapter.
Every Child Jackson County’s “The Neighborhood” program — the first in the state — is being adopted statewide, said Hasse.
Based on the “it takes a village” concept, she said, six people mentor, support, encourage, offer respite, provide meals, babysit or “do other random acts of kindness” for foster parents over a six-month period.
The program is an attempt to recruit and retain foster parents. There is both a shortage and a high turnover rate.
“We want them to stay in and feel that, ‘yes, we can do this,’” said Hasse.
An upcoming appreciation event includes free passes to a Spartans hockey game for foster families.
As with foster parents, there is a shortage and high turnover rate among child welfare workers.
Every Child seeks to “provide a safety net,” said Hasse.
Providing what she calls “spots of happiness” is one way to say thank you to “these first responders.”
Hasse and her husband are the adoptive parents of a 14-year-old. She has seen the trauma endured by foster children, the toll on foster parents and the trial and tribulations of caseworkers since her son was a toddler.
“That’s what makes this work so important,” she said of her duties with Every Child, “and why fostering the love is so important, especially this time of year.”
For more information, contact Every Child Jackson County at firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.everychildjackson.org.
Original article published on Mail Tribune: