Eustis Girl Scouts collect important items for foster children

Cindy Dian Correspondent |

Girl Scout Troop 9295 in Eustis is taking on a project that will provide foster kids in Florida with duffle bags full of necessities along with some handmade crafts made by the girls.
This challenge is a bronze project for the cadet and junior Girl Scouts, but the entire troop is b anding together to help.
“Our goal to begin with is to make 100 bags for the kids,” troop leader Peggy Sergi said. “The girls are in charge of raising the money to buy the supplies and collecting donations. We are also recycling our cookie boxes to make crafts for them.”
The idea to help the local foster kids came to Sergi when two girls who had been in foster care joined the troop. After talking with them and hearing how tough the situation can be, the girls decided they wanted to do whatever they could to help.
“We want to give them duffle bags to carry their items instead of trash bags,” Girl Scout junior Emma Deese said. “There’s a lot of kids that don’t have anything, so we want to help them have things of their own.”
Each bag will include a pillow, teddy bear, blanket, school supplies, coloring book and personal hygiene items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a brush or comb. The items can be directly donated to the troop, or they will be purchased with the money the girls raise.
The troop will hold a car wash and a yard sale to raise funds for the project. They are currently collecting items to sell and are planning on having the sale in a few weeks. Part of their fall fundraiser sales of chocolates, nuts and magazines will also be used for the project.
“We want to show the kids we care,” Girl Scout cadet Sammi Snodgress said. “I think they will appreciate the gifts.”
The girls are also making crafts out of the Girl Scout cookie boxes to include in the bags. One of their mottos is to “use resources wisely,” so they are creating coloring books and artistic easels for the children.
“This project is teaching them many things,” Sergi said. “They will receive a community service badge for their work and we can demonstrate how to recycle and reuse items that might just be thrown away otherwise.”
Once all the bags and items are collected, the troop will donate them to the Florida Department of Children and Families to be distributed to foster kids all over the state. For information, emailtroop9295@outlook.com.

Churches form partnership to recruit, help foster parents

Orientation set for Sept. 20 at First Baptist Church   
By Nick Watsonnwatson@gainesvilletimes.com  @NickWatsonTimes
When Liz Coates saw the plight of foster care in Hall County, she said she knew the congregation at First Baptist Church in Gainesville needed to know.
“When my eyes kind of got opened about what’s going on, I’m like ‘The church needs to know this,’” the minister of outreach said. “I feel like if the Christian community were more aware and if the Christian community felt they had one another to work together on trying to be part of a solution ... then maybe we could try to be part of helping getting kids some homes.”
After months of planning, seven churches from six different denominations will band together in the search and support of foster care parents in the region.
Those churches include First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Gainesville First United Methodist Church, St. Michael Catholic Church, Blackshear Place Baptist Church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church and Grace Episcopal Church.
An orientation for those interested will be 4-6 p.m. Sept. 20 at First Baptist Church, followed by IMPACT training classes for potential foster parents in October.
“It’s a way we can all share the responsibility of trying to keep an influx of foster families in Hall County,” Coates said.
The first conversations about a foster care ministry — a group working to help foster parents and the children needing homes — began in July between First Baptist and United Methodist Children’s Home. Sondra Rogers, the children’s home’s supervisor in the Gainesville office, worked with Coates and others on how to get started.
“These individual churches understand that it’s all about the children and it’s all about the church taking care of these children,” Rogers said.
Every month, an average of 200 kids from Hall County are in the foster care system. In September 2014, there were 50 beds in Hall County for those children. Many of these children relocated to places as far as Macon, Savannah and Augusta where foster homes were more readily available.
According to Division of Family and Children Services data for August 2015, the number of beds has increased to 76 while the number of kids in the system stayed roughly the same.
When two privatization pilot programs stalled in two regions last September, the religious community became grounds for recruitment.
DFCS Region 2 resource development supervisor Rebecca Davidson said the faith-based community in and around Northeast Georgia has jumped at the chance to get involved, from passing out flyers to finding prospective parents.
“What I discovered was it was a vastly untapped resource,” she said. “Once you started reaching out, so many of these churches have for so long wanted to help but not had the equipment or the power to do so. It’s a perfect marriage.”
Davidson, Coates and Rogers will take part in a panel discussion Sept. 13 to discuss issues facing the foster care system and how to get involved.
All told The Times that support players are needed for foster parents, meaning there are opportunities to help, such as baby-sitting, that don’t involve full-time foster parenting.
The partnership between the churches, Rogers said, will also bring a wealth of resources.
“One of the other churches may have some volunteers that can get supplies for the foster parents and also other individuals who were interested in being what we call substitute caregivers,” Rogers said, speaking of people who can take care of children when parents need rest or take vacation.
The foster care ministry at First Baptist Church will be an eight-person team working to provide support, from a friendly check-in to helping parents pass the home inspection to become foster parents.
“Everything from getting a septic tank checked out to making sure all of your outlets are secured for small children — all of those things have to be taken care of,” Coates said.
Since starting in her role in February, Davidson said she has seen a steady stream of new churchgoing parents go through classes. The power of the preacher cannot be understated, she said.
“Whether I’m a gifted orator or not, it’s not going to have the same punch as coming from the minister,” Davidson said.
Rogers said she hopes more churches in the area will sign onto the movement to increase the strength of the faith-based community.
“Once a foster parent has that support, they’re more able to stay a foster parent longer and also meet the needs of the children,” Rogers said.
Churches and others looking for information on how to get involved are asked to email Davidson at rebecca.davidson@dhs.ga.gov.
Beds for Hall County children in foster care
About 200 children are in foster care at any given time
September 2014: 50 beds
August 2015: 76 beds
Source: Division of Family & Children Services

Foster care panel
What: Discussion on becoming a foster parent
When: noon-2:30 p.m. Sept. 13
Where: First Baptist Church Banquet Hall, 751 Green St.

What: Training by United Methodist Children’s Home
When: 4-6 p.m. Sept. 20
Where: First Baptist Church Parlor for Parents/Room 115
Register: liz.coates.isandoro@gmail.com or 770-535-0478. Child care provided with prior registration.

What: IMPACT foster parenting certification classes
When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27 and 29; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 10 and Oct. 24
Where: First Baptist Church
More info: Sondra Rogers of UMCH, 770-531-3063    

Kases for Kids event helps give foster children something to call their own

Crescenta-Cañada Lions Club collects items for children entering the foster care system.
By Ryan Fonseca

August 5, 2015 | 7:15 p.m.
Members of the Crescenta-Cañada Lions Club collected backpacks, suitcases, school supplies and other items this past Saturday for children going through a difficult transition.
As part of the fourth annual Kases for Kids event, the local club partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services for the project to provide donated backpacks and suitcases, filled with school supplies and personal-care items to children entering the county’s foster care system.
Held in the parking lot of Ralphs grocery store at Foothill Boulevard and Raymond Avenue, the turnout for this year’s event might have been the best yet, according to Art Rinaman, club president.
“The community has really responded,” he said. “La Cresenta and La Cañada both are very giving communities.”
The items — some new and some used — are for children that club members will probably never meet, children who have to leave the home they knew and move to a new place, often leaving everything they had behind.
That’s where the Kases for Kids program steps in to give kids a backpack or suitcase to take with them.
“They have something they can call their own throughout this whole ordeal,” Rinaman said.
La Crescenta resident Barbara Council, who donated some carry-on sized bags full of toiletries, said she was a foster grandparent to a young girl and knows just how little some children have when they enter the system.
“She came with nothing,” Council said. “Most of the kids really don’t have anything.”
It is estimated that as many as 28,000 children are in the county’s foster care system, a statistic Rinaman referred to on Saturday.
“What we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket for what they need,” he said.
At about 1 p.m. the club’s van was filling up with its second load of the day. Club members said in previous years, the event averaged between 150 and 200 suitcases and bags by the end of the day, but they were hopeful they could top that this year.
Shortly afterward, Robbi Hobbs, who recently moved to Glendale, drove up with her car full of backpacks, suitcases and bathroom essentials.
Hobbs, a retired teacher, said she found a flier for the event while moving, went to a nearby Walgreens and bought all the backpacks in the store.
“How sad is it that (the children) don’t have something of their own when they arrive?” she said. “That’s what prompted me.”
She brought more than 15 backpacks and suitcases to donate and said she still had $60 to go buy some more.
“If you can be helpful to some kids who have nothing, how awesome is that? How cool that they would be able to have some dignity,” she said.
Rinaman smiled as he unloaded the items from her car and took them to the Lion’s Club’s van.
“They will be happy to get these,” he said.

Running with the Bears fundraiser to benefit foster children

Stacy Fisher Staff Writer
This year the annual fundraiser for Mountain Circle Family Services, the Running with the Bears race, takes place Saturday, Aug. 15, in Greenville.
Nearly 600 people have signed up to “Run with the Bears,” but one of them has already gone the extra mile.
Event organizers are especially thrilled that 8-year-old Ryan Mcfarland from Paradise, its youngest charity runner to date, will be participating in the Running with the Bears, said Race Director Josie Litchfield.
Youth meets challenge
Ryan met his goal of raising $500 for local foster children and is also the youngest charity runner ever to participate in the race.
He raised the money by placing a fundraising page through the Running with the Bears website and asked friends and family to donate.
Litchfield said that the Mountain Circle staff was so inspired by his kindness that they donated on his page as well.
Ryan’s mom, Amy, said, “Last year was my first half-marathon, and Ryan and his sister were there to cheer me on.”
Ryan said that while they were waiting at the finish line, “all the runners were smiling and high-fiving, and even the ones who looked really tired looked like they had a really great time.”
Ryan wanted to participate in the race to “help other kids,” he said.
When he and his mom came across the Running with the Bears marathon, they considered it a perfect opportunity.
Ryan has already run 16 5Ks, a 10K and one quarter-mile race. This will be his first Running with the Bears marathon.
“We’re honored that participants — some whom we’ve never met — signed up to help us raise money for the children we serve,” said Litchfield, “but when they’re only 8 years old and they choose to raise money for other kids and run 13.1 miles, it’s pretty incredible. Ryan is an inspiration to all of us.”

Race start times
The Running with the Bears marathon starts at 6:30 a.m., the half-marathon starts at 7 a.m., and the 10K begins at 8 a.m.
Those who wish to walk the course should inquire about starting early.
All races begin and end at the Goss Ranch, 4864 North Arm Road.
Free parking is permitted in the large field adjacent to Goss Ranch. Watch for cow pies!

Race benefits foster care
Launched in 2011, Running with the Bears is Plumas County’s own Boston Marathon qualifier, and one of the very few managed entirely by the charity it benefits: Mountain Circle Family Services, a non-profit foster care and adoption agency, based in Greenville.
In 2015, the race has grown to nearly 600 athletes, including runners from as far away as England and Brazil.
Although the regular division of the race sold out five months ago, there are still a few spots left for Charity Runners, Litchfield remarked.
Ryan joins 17 other Charity Runners who have raised at least $500, including: Kat Wasden, Danny Styer, Ann Murphy, Linda McLean, Doreen Rambke-Hartz, Holly Silva, Nathan Cracraft, Karen Christensen, Jackie Bernaciak, Donna Williamson, Erica Bellman, Denise Angst, Rhea Ann, JoAnna Inks, and Angela Yerxa.

Pre-race dinner
A scrumptious pre-race all-you-can-eat pasta dinner, with a no-host bar, is scheduled the day before the Running with the Bears race on Friday, Aug. 14, at 96 S. Main Street in downtown Greenville.
For $15, guests can enjoy homemade vegetarian and sausage Rigatoni, fresh green salad, garlic bread and dessert. Teens pay just $10; ages 11 and under are free.
Organizers request that tickets be purchased in advance at the Running with the Bears website: runningwiththebears.org.
Dinner is served at 5 p.m., followed by charity recognition at 6 p.m.
An event packet is available at the dinner for runners, between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Hoedown post-race party
You don’t have to be a runner to join in the fun at the post-race party on Saturday.
The Running with the Bears Hoedown festivities start at 5 p.m. on Saturday night.
Adults pay just $30; kids 11-18 pay $15, and children under 11 are free.
The Hoedown features a catered barbecue dinner, a live band, DJ, a bar serving mai tais, beer and wine, door prizes and a drawing. A free photo booth will also be on hand.
Kids can enjoy a petting zoo, a bouncy house, and pan for gold — and perhaps strike it rich!
All proceeds are donated to support children and youth in foster care served by Mountain Circle Family Services.
Tickets for the Hoedown can be purchased online at runningwiththebears.org or at Lupine’s in Greenville.
For more information call 284-7007.

Lemons for Learning

By Blake Branch, Editor
On the first day of August, Abby Barnett was doing what a lot of kids her age do during the summer: selling lemonade and cookies.
Behind a homemade stand built by her father and under a much-needed umbrella courtesy of her grandfather, the soon-to-be 5th grader was busy refilling her pitcher of ice-cold lemonade. Her friend Grace Emory, helping sell and being moral support, was restocking Tupperware containers with chocolate chip and sugar cookies when a little girl and her mother came up. Clutching a dollar in her hand, the little girl ultimately decided on just a glass of lemonade and, with assistance, squeezed the dollar into an overflowing glass jar of cash and checks.
Barnett, decked out in a bright yellow lemon shirt, thanked the pair in her soft, shy voice. While it’s difficult hearing or getting anything out of her, her actions behind that lemonade stand speak louder than anything that could have been said.
Lemons for Learning was created by Barnett and her mother, Meagan Rodriguez, to help generate funds for school supplies for foster children.  From 10 a.m.-3 p.m. last Saturday, Barnett, Rodriguez, Emory and members of Barnett’s family helped her fundraise outside of the South Sioux City Public Library, 2121 Dakota Ave. Donations came from a wide variety of groups, including JC Roofing, Sue Bee Honey, Valient Insurance Agency and the Siouxland Conservatory of Music, said Rodriguez. Along with money and checks dropped off at the stand, funds were donated on a page built on the Building Blocks Foster Case website. In addition, the group accepted donated school supplies, ranging from glue, pens and pencils to erasers and crayons.
“I think it has been going good so far,” said Barnett around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. At the time she was happy with the number of people that had come through, which they estimated was around 20. Shortly after, another eight came through before 1 p.m.
The idea to donating to foster children came as a collaboration between Barnett and her mother, who works in child protective services and foster care for the past five years. With the new school year just beginning, Barnett wanted to be able to provide for local foster children who may not get the new high-end backpacks, with characters like Spider-Man and Anna and Elsa  from the film “Frozen”, both of which were on display last Saturday.
“This started really, really small,” said Rodriguez. “(Abby) was just going to sit outside of our house (and sell) and buy one or two (backpacks), but as it got bigger she said she wanted to purchase at lease 15. She thought she wanted one of each age group (to buy).” Barnett said she’d ultimately like to help a boy and girl of each grade level from kindergarten through eighth grade. Rodriguez said what they have been able to collect and raise in funds they should be able to do well above that figure. As of Monday night, Lemons for Learning had collected roughly $1,200.
“We’ll have a lot of happy kids ( from everything donated and raised),” said Rodriguez.
“I haven’t really thought about it (if she will do something again later in the year), but I know I’d like to do this again next summer,” said Barnett.
For Barnett, she wanted to do what she could for those they may not get all the things she and others might. And that group wanted to support her as well. Just a little before 1 p.m., a group of three children came and purchased lemonade and cookies. They were foster children.

Quilters pledge pillowcases to foster children

Quilting is more than a hobby for grandmothers. Quilting is an act of love. Just ask members of the Napa Valley Quilters Guild.
This month, the Napa Valley Quilters joined the One Million Pillowcase Challenge and pledged to donate 150 pillowcases to benefit the foster children of Napa County.
“I’ve been quilting for 28 years, but I’d never made a pillowcase,” said guild member Rosie Luce. “I kept reading about the One Million Pillowcase Challenge and I fell in love with its mission: to donate pillowcases to local charities and people in need. Children in our local foster system get a pillow and a pillowcase when they enter the system. For our project, we are making special, colorful pillowcases, ones they can call their own.”
Napa Valley Quilters members do a lot of charity work. Each year, the organization donates quilts to locals in need as part of the Share A Quilt program. Members recently donated 71 blankets to organizations such as ParentsCan, COPE Family Center, Catholic Charities Rainbow House, Veterans Home of California at Yountville, and Napa County Child Protective Services. To date, the Guild has donated 2,549 quilts.
Quilters picked up pillowcase kits during Quiltapalooza, the guild’s quilting workshops series, on Saturday following its monthly meeting at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa.
Luce has been with the Guild since 1987, and enjoys the community built within the group.
“Quilting is my passion,” Luce said. “I love the creativity involved, and quilts are something you can share. Quilts are something to be held and loved. That’s why our members are such big supporters of the Share A Quilt program. It means so much to know that one of your quilts is going to someone in need of some comfort.”
Diane Aubry has been quilting for 30 years. “I associate quilting with love. I make quilts for the people I love and care about. Quilts make great gifts for birthdays, new babies, weddings – all sorts of special events. There are so many hours that go into quilts. You put your heart and soul into each one.”
Another charity project the Napa Valley Quilters is its annual opportunity quilt. Each year, guild members get together to assemble a large quilt to raffle. Funds raised go toward materials for the Share A Quilt program. This year’s quilt is about 7 square feet styled in a 19th century French florals and stripes pattern that creates a whimsical patchwork of reds and blues. The quilters have been selling raffle tickets all summer, showcasing the quilt at events and guild meetings across the Bay Area.
Robin Rose, who hosted a Quiltapalooza workshop to teach members how to make wine cozies, said the opportunity quilt is special because the project involves guild members who invest hundreds of hours into making it.

“It takes months to make the opportunity quilt,” Rose said. “I only wish non-quilters could fully appreciate the time and skill invested into a quilt like that. A quilt is not just a blanket. If you want a blanket, go to the store and buy one. Quilting is about the intricate stitching that holds the quilt together. A quilt is a labor of love. A quilt tells a story.”