It was like Santa’s workshop at the Devine News for several weeks as readers and friends dropped off some very special Christmas gifts for 72 foster children this year. With their overwhelming generosity, quick actions and teamwork. Just when we thought we couldn’t handle anymore, another caseworker would call asking for help, and someone else in our community would come around the corner and say “What can I help with? I will do anything you need.”
It never ceases to amaze us just how generous the people are in the communities we serve and how quick to help they are, and what can be accomplished with teamwork.
The Devine News sent out a message to area case workers this November looking for Christmas Wish Lists from foster children who might not have much, if anything under the tree this year. Soon, the names and wishes of these sweet children started pouring in. There were far more children in need than we expected, but as the requests continued to pour in, local families continued to pour their hearts out.
Thanks to the generosity of those that came in with gift after gift after gift, we were able to gather gifts for every single request we received for foster children this year, some from Medina County, Frio County, and for a special group in Bexar County serving foster youth who recently turned 18 and “aged out”. While HANK always provides gifts for Medina County kids, these drives included gifts for a few kiddos in our two local HANK homes as well, to help out this wonderful organization since so many fundraisers were cancelled this past year due to the pandemic.
The caseworkers and directors of these programs were extremely grateful, stating that these kiddos would have had very little for Christmas–without the wonderful love and generosity of this community which came with gift after gift after gift to show these kids THEY ARE LOVED.
“We are usually raiding the rainbow rooms this time of year, just trying to find something,” one case worker said.
“You have no idea how much this is going to mean to these kids,” said another, almost in tears.
We want to thank each and every one of the families who helped. A special thanks to the special ladies who were always there at every turn, ready and willing to run and purchase one more pair of special basketball shoes, one more specially requested toy or TV, or any Christmas wish that hadn’t been filled.
We dare not attempt to print the names of all the wonderful families, for we cannot even name the many, many people who walked through the doors of the newspaper office with arms full of gifts and love. But we want them all to know they were part of something absolutely wonderful in a very gloomy year. And we know they realize just how wonderful it was because they kept offering their help and asking, “Ok, what else can I do, what else do you need for these kids, just let me know”.
Whether it be an awesome gift for a certain child, or stockings full of gifts for several kids, people in this community overwhelmingly reached deep in their hearts and pocket books to make this Christmas special for these youngsters! Some volunteers packed stockings or gifts bags full of love for as many as 12-16 kids.
After collecting gifts for some 30 kiddos in the area, we received a phone call from the director of an organization called Be Real, which helps foster kids who are turning 18 or recently turned 18 and are “aging out” of the system.
When we realized that these youth were not only on their own, but most of them wouldn’t even have a Christmas tree to put a gift under, we knew this community would want to help. Two local volunteers came to the rescue and with teams of friends and searched and rounded up over 40 Christmas trees in a matter of a few short days for every one of these kiddos. A beautiful sight it was. Not only did they bring trees, but they also brought lights and ornaments to brighten up these kid’s new homes and lives.
This group of 40 kids have enrolled in a really neat program that helps these kids get on their feet by providing an apartment as long as they are working and saving or going to college full time. BeReal helps these youth by providing a bed, stove, and a small apartment as they start out their lives on their own. BeReal provides mentorship throughout the process to help these kids get off to a positive start and direction. When one kids ages out of that program, they are able to add another. With their savings during this time, the kids will be able to put down a deposit on their own apartment when the time comes and know how to manage life on their own a little better.
We had the opportunity to meet some of these 18 year old foster youth via a zoom meeting, and their faces were absolutely priceless and their stories heartwarming. This zoom “Christmas party” was all online. You couldn’t hug anyone, and technology issues were intermittent as usual, but it was absolutely one of the most meaningful Christmas parties I have ever had the opportunity to attend.
The director of this program that helps foster youths in the Bexar County area thought she would have nothing to give these kids for Christmas, with funding so low during covid. When she arrived at our office and we filled up her giant U-Haul to the very top, she was speechless. She had to come back for a second trip, and noted that the kids she delivered the gifts too were just as speechless. “Who are these people!?” they said. “How can they care about me so much?”
During the zoom meeting with these kids, one of the 18 year old boys was stunned at the generosity of the gift he received from a complete stranger. With the most sincere tone, he looked straight into the camera and asked, “What made you want to do this for someone you don’t even know?”
Another boy, who is over 18 and starting out his new life, received a tool set in his Christmas gift. He related that he had done training in HVAC, but that every time he went for a job interview, they stated he needed to have his own tools. “Now I have my own tools,” he stated proudly, with a grateful heart.
The volunteer who bought 8 sets of Crescent tools for these young men explained, “I still have the tool set my daddy gave me when I was 16 years old, and I use it all the time. Every boy needs a tool set.”
Two more volunteers also offered to mentor some of these youth, who dream of being in the same profession as the families who donated.
The list of kind gestures goes on and on. So heartwarming and so genuine.
When one kid asked, “Why do people help” one of our responses was “Paying it forward. We were blessed to have great parents who helped us along the way and have learned to help others from some of the best examples in life. Learning, that it is in giving that you are receiving the most. Someday, you will be that person helping someone else and paying it forward.”
“That’s so cool. I hope so,” the boy replied.
Ongoing collection of home items
We will continue to collect couches, TVs, dining room tables/chairs, small furniture, small appliances and such for this group of foster youth, who have very little to start out with besides the clothes on their back and an empty apartment. For questions, you can contact Kayleen Holder on the Devine News Facebook or by calling 830-665-2211. Or drop off at The Devine News or Mag’s Place Boutique Store 830-663-8077 just down the road on the corner from the news office. Mag’s Place has graciously offered their storage shed behind their shop to store these items until they can be picked up for these youth starting out on their own without a family to fall back on.
Devine truly is a great place to live, because of the people in it and their big hearts!
Devine keep being Devine!
By Kayleen Holder and K.K. Calame