Thursday, October 30, 2014

Enough gifts? ‘You just never know’

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 12/11/2013

Without the help of community members, presents would be scarce, Stephanie Wooge said.

Buying Christmas presents for 10 children herself, Wooge, Pomona, said she’s thankful for KVC’s Adopt an Angel program. KVC Health Systems, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides medical and behavioral health care, social services and education to children and families, according to its website.

“We would definitely have to scale back without the angel program,” Wooge, a foster parent of 14 years, said. “There would be a lot less gifts.”

Wooge and her husband, David, have two children of their own, one adopted child who now is 21, five foster children ranging in age from 4 to 12, and two grandchildren, she said.

“Typical foster parents don’t have a lot of money, so when you add that many kids, it can get difficult,” Wooge said. “We are very thankful that KVC does an angel program and helps provide Christmas presents. They do a fantastic job of helping make sure the kids have a good Christmas.”

Shopping for nine youngsters, Wooge said, takes almost the entire year of planning to coordinate presents to make sure each child has the same amount of gifts.

“You buy things when they’re on sale and put them in the closet,” she said. “You never know what kids you’re going to have for Christmas. You could have a kid living with you now and leave next week and then two new ones on Christmas Eve — you just never know.”

Her children never know where their presents came from, Wooge said, because they’re all unmarked and each kid gets the same number of presents.

“We don’t make it a big deal,” she said. “We always make sure that everybody has the same amount of gifts. It’s not ‘This came from KVC.’ They’re all unmarked and they all get the same amount of presents. It may be something I bought or something donated through the Angel Tree. They never know the difference.”

‘IT CAN BE TRAUMATIC’

There now are more than 60 children in foster care in Franklin County, ranging from birth to 18 years old, Dawn Cubbison said. The Adopt an Angel program helps foster parents provide gifts for their foster kids, which they might not otherwise have been able to purchase, Cubbison, community resource specialist at KVC, said.

“All the children in foster care complete a wish list,” she said. “We seek out sponsors to provide presents for those children and we create a gift bag and things [foster children] wish to have and things like they do, like what’s their favorite store or music and send them to sponsors with a red gift bag for them to stuff for presents for the child and then we get those delivered to the foster children.”

Not every family in the community is in need of gifts during the holiday season, Cubbison said; some are hoping to connect with families who are so they can help out.

“This time of year, there’s people working for ways to get to others and have needs other than their own,” she said. “These kids don’t have Christmas with their families or biological families, and it can be traumatic. It’s a trying time and we’re trying to provide and let them know people care about them.”

All kids like receiving gifts on Christmas, Cubbison said, even teenagers, who often get overlooked.

“Sometimes teens are overlooked, but Adopt an Angel is for children of all ages,” she said. “Gift cards are always appreciated, especially by the teenagers in care. They are always the right size, color and style. Teens often enjoy having the independence of being able to shop for themselves.”

‘IT TAKES A VILLAGE’

Presents aren’t the only things those in need are looking for, Mary Lois Yates said. Many people also are in need of food to provide a Christmas dinner, she said.

“We put out a plea when we usually ask the churches and list things we’re going to be putting in our food boxes,” Yates, coordinator at Hope House, 304 S. Walnut St., Ottawa, said. “They do registration and are able to get a food box for Christmas dinner and the parents get to shop for little ones.”

Those who registered will receive a food box and will be able to pick out gifts at the Christmas shop from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday at Hope House, Yates said.

Gathering gifts for the Christmas shop takes all year, she said, and this year took a little extra giving from community members to have enough.

“We try during the whole year, as people give us things new or slightly used, that we would hold those back,” she said. “This year we didn’t have as much saved as the previous year.”

Generous donations from members of the community and the Fill the Truck toy drive at Walmart Supercenter, 2101 S. Princeton St., Ottawa, helped provide gifts for the 155 children registered to receive them, Yates said, but that still wasn’t enough.

“We just didn’t have many gifts,” she said. “We have a trust fund and pulled off of our trust fund and spent money to make sure we have enough gifts.”

People can donate all throughout the year and the holiday season, Yates said, which helps those who didn’t register or have waited until the last minute to get gifts.

“The thing of it is ... we do [the Christmas shop] fairly early, so there’s always the last-minute people who do need things,” she said. “Anything left over from the Christmas shop will be available on Dec. 17 to people who didn’t register, if they want to come and shop.”

It’s the organizations and the members of the community that make Christmas happen for families that might not have been able to have a Christmas, Wooge said, and giving is what Christmas is all about.

“It goes along with the saying that ‘It takes a village,’” Wooge said. “This is our community of children, and we all have to step up and do what we can to help them.”

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