It seems every year we see growth in the number of people who take a special interest in our children this time of year and do all they can to ensure the foster children of Hamilton County have a wonderful holiday. I continue to be amazed and grateful at the generosity of our community.
For the first time ever, we became a welcomed recipient of donated bikes from the Bike Lady Inc., a Franklin County non-profit. The “Bike Lady” is Kate Koch, a former foster parent in Franklin County who began donating bikes to Franklin County Children’s Services in 2008 and quickly expanded to other counties. This year, Hamilton County received more than 100 of the 1,400 bikes she distributed throughout Ohio. That is going to amount to a lot of happy children once we get them all delivered! Thank you to Kate and the Kroger Co., which delivered the bikes. Check out bikelady.org if you would like to support her efforts.
We also received our annual donation from Toys for Tots, a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. This year, we received more than 1,600 toys for our foster children and others who are involved in our child welfare system. Every year, this program helps us ensure every child in our system gets at least one toy.
The TTT Hair Salon in Forest Park did something really special for our foster teens this year. Owner Tasha Thompson arranged for several to get free makeovers from her stylists. As you can imagine, this was a big hit with our fashion-conscious teens who are always worried about their appearance.
Another newcomer this year was the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business. Debbie Puckett collected nearly $500 worth of gift cards for our older teens. This is often the group that is hardest to buy for – Toys for Tots takes care of our younger children, but the older children often want or need gifts that are more suitable for their age. Some are even on their own, and need toiletries or linens for their apartments. We find gift cards to be the easiest way to help the teens.
Dale Cornes of the Cincinnati Health Department organized a drive among his co-workers that led to dozens of toys being collected for our children.
And, while this wasn’t tied to the holidays, the Cases for Love drive is really special and will help our children throughout the year. Julie Phillippi-Whitney of Phillippi-Whitney Communications is working with Sibcy Cline Realty and MA Folkes Company to collect hundreds of suitcases for our children to carry their possessions in should they have to move from their own homes or a foster home. That will make a difficult time just a little easier.
The regular contributors to our annual holiday party were back for more this year. Fifth Third Bank and Xerox continue to be a stalwart we lean on to ensure we are able to provide one night of fun, food and gifts for some of the children who are waiting to be adopted. Montgomery Community Church donates the space for the party and the Marvin Lewis Foundation brings the more-popular-than-Santa Bengals players and Bengals gifts.
North College Hill Presbyterian Church and ProKids Young Professionals helped with a separate party we held for youth in our Independent Living Program.
Speaking of regulars, Patty Nolan donates four bikes – two boys and two girls – every year. And the Bellarmine Chapel donated gifts to nearly 100 of our families, as they do every year. Molina Healthcare donated gifts for our children. Rob Herman and Brad Wittenauer also made significant contributions. These folks continue to help our children each year.
Our own employees helped this year, too. Several folks in our Children’s Services Division adopted families. I am proud that they are so invested in their families that they are so committed to doing and giving even more than what they do on the job.
Unfortunately, I cannot name every one. And some want to remain anonymous. For example, one family anonymously donates a carload of gifts and supplies to one of our families every year.
If you helped in any way, please know that we appreciate your good heart and giving nature. You have helped a child or family in need and made the holiday season a bit brighter. You actually have changed lives.
Thank you. Peace and best wishes to all in the new year.
This wonderful array of gifts was donated by a local family that adopts a JFS family every year.