Anna Mireles and Leticia Soto see the impact Fostering Christmas has up close. Both work with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in Canyon County, Anna as a client services technician and Leticia as an independent living coordinator. Last year was their first time working directly with Fostering Christmas, an opportunity Leticia says "was a blessing."
However, when she first learned of the project, Leticia had an idea for expansion. Depending on their circumstances, some young adults are entitled to continue receiving support for several years after they turn 18 through extended foster care and independent living programs. "We have youth who are 19 years old," Leticia explains. "So, I asked if the organization could help gather Christmas gifts for these kids because they need help and deserve it." She was delighted when Fostering Christmas agreed to take on the additional challenge.
These youths are frequently overlooked during holiday drives. "Most people want to buy toys," Anna explains, "so the independent living kids usually get what is left over. It sounds awful, but we give them what we can gather. When Fostering Christmas said they could help meet that need, it was perfect."
Anna adds, "These kids are so, so grateful. It's not that the younger ones aren't, but they don't really understand where everything comes from. The older kids do, and they appreciate it so much."
Unlike the minor children, the young adults did not create a wish list for Fostering Christmas. Used to not getting chosen for holiday assistance, they decided not to get their hopes up. But then a generous sponsor stepped in to provide a $400 gift card to each of the 11 19-year-olds in Leticia's region. The recipients were blown away.
"I loved delivering them," Leticia said. "Some splurged; others needed groceries, to fix their cars, or to secure other things essential to independent living. It was a huge need, and I think it was awesome to be able to give the gift cards."
Anna notes the other ways Fostering Christmas has shown generosity. "The kids don't know any better," Anna says, "They don't understand that they can't ask for the same thing as their friend [who is not in foster care]. So, sometimes their lists seem outrageous. I told them they could wish for whatever they wanted, but it doesn't mean they'll get everything. But those gifts came through."
It's not only the kids who are grateful; Leticia relates a time a grandparent providing foster care started crying when she received the children's gifts. "The reactions were huge, and we were very humbled," Leticia says. "They didn't think it would be possible to get their entire wish lists, but they did because we have such great support and sponsors. They were very thankful."
"When you get a child into foster care, many foster parents take money out of their own pockets to get them necessities," Anna explains. "Getting the kids so close to Christmas can become a burden. But we could tell them, 'Don't worry about it. Just give me a list.' They were thanking us so much."
Of course, the most magical moments happen in private. Fostering Christmas supporters and volunteers don't get to see the children receive their presents, but it’s what keeps us all going. "Some of them had never seen that many Christmas presents under a tree," Anna says. "We take it for granted, but little kids couldn't believe Santa knew where they were. For the older ones, the brand names meant something — it provides normalcy to have Nikes or Levis. The generosity makes a difference."
Most of all, she remembers one Fostering Christmas recipient who was 4 years old. "On Christmas morning, he got more gifts than anyone else," Anna says. "So, he said he was Santa's favorite. When I see him now, I still think of him as Santa's favorite. And I'm sure he'll remember that for the rest of his life."