For years, our church has contributed to Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child (OCC) program that sends shoebox-sized packages to children around the world. It was such fun to be a part of organizing that program for our church and seeing our families delight in putting boxes together. However, a few months ago, I began to question if OCC was the right project for me to help organize this year. Jesus was turning my heart more to the local needs of families and kids in foster care.
Don and I have a few friends who are foster parents. Life is not easy for them. They struggle to manage everyday living, doctor appointments, court dates, and the overwhelming requests from social workers to take “just one more.” Those friends are my heros. They champion the cause for kids in care, and they do so tirelessly. Our friends also remind me of the overwhelming number of foster kids in our area. Traditional orphanages don’t really exist anymore in the U.S., so foster kids are the orphans spoken about so tenderly in James 1:27.
So, this fall I emailed the Shelby County Foster Parent Association (SCFPA) to ask if we could do something for them this Christmas. And, the answer was basically, “We usually stuff stockings for kids and teens each year. We had a corporate donor help out in the past, but we have no donor so far this year. There are 39 teens. Would your church be interested in doing stockings for the teens?” [Sidenote: In previous years, our church collected anywhere between 45 to 89 Christmas boxes for OCC. 39 stockings sounded ideal.] I basically said, “Heck, Yeah!,” although the tone of my actual reply was a bit more formal.
So, here we are Christ Community. The need is REAL, it’s LOCAL, and it’s IMPORTANT. Thirty-nine guys and girls between the ages of 14 and 20 need some love this Christmas. Foster teens/young adults are traditionally less cared for by outside organizations, yet their material and emotional needs are just as great. If you’re willing, here’s what we want you to do: agree to stuff a stocking for a teen/young adult in foster care this Christmas. From this Sunday until Dec 10, we’ll have a display at worship with the genders, ages, and living situations of all 39 teens/young adults we’re stuffing stockings for. Take a stocking and purchase items with that child in mind. Hint: gift cards are any teenager’s ideal Christmas gift. We’ll have a sample stocking for you to see. Consider spending around $15-25, total, on your stocking (more if you want). Ideal stocking stuffers are gift cards (Amazon, Walmart, Target, Chick-fil-a, McDonald’s, Starbucks, movie theaters, etc.), candy, sunglasses, hats, card games, jewelry, and basically anything your 16 year-old child/grandkid/nephew/niece would love. Bag your stuff, label it, and bring it back to worship by Dec 10. You don’t need to buy a stocking; SCFPA will provide those (they have the kids’ names and can personalize them). We’ll transport these to the SCFPA who will stuff the actual stockings and get them to the kids before Christmas. In addition to bringing in your stocking goodies, please make a $12 donation to SCFPA to cover the cost of the actual stocking and monogramming. The $12 donation can be made by cash, check or Paypal. We’ll have flyers this Sunday at worship that give all of the above information as well as info on how to make your $12 donation.
This is an exciting way for our church to serve a real, local need this Christmas. If you have questions about Operation Christmas Stocking, please contact me.
Much Love to all my Stocking-Stuffing Family!,
PS: For those of you who were wondering, SCFPA is the organization that oversees The Hangar in Helena. The Hangar is the clothing/supplies closet that SCFPA uses to store items foster families use with new placements. Our CCC Youth served at the Hangar this past summer.
PPS: SCFPA is also stuffing stockings for children. If you’re keen to spend your Black Friday budget on the 0 - 12 year-old set, visit their Facebook page for info on that program. You can even get a kid’s complete Christmas wish list and go crazy!