The tenth annual Jingle Bell Christmas party for foster kids in Montgomery County was hosted by the Montgomery County Foster Care Coalition. The party was held Dec. 14 at WoodsEdge Community Church in Spring.
“It’s an opportunity that we bring together organizations to help support and provide a festive day for children in the foster care system, said Leshia Fisher, Regional Director for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “We have snow, Santa, gifts, hot cocoa; anything that you would envision in your childhood of what Christmas feels like.” We’ve got 150 volunteers to help support more than 700 children that have registered and are attending this event.”
Fisher said this is a collaborative effort.
“Once again, Montgomery County has really stepped up in supporting the child welfare system.”
Fisher said every year they hold this party, parents of the foster kids come up and give the workers and volunteers a hug and say thank you.
“Thank you for doing this (the parents say), thank you for inviting us, thank you for remembering us. That’s not why we do it, we do it because it’s in our hearts, it’s what we do to serve and give back to others, said Fisher. “We have a great lead, Margaret Martin, she’s with Casa (Court Appointed Special Advocates). “She pulls us all together and organizes all of the partner organizations, Love Fosters Hope, the Junior League, the multitude of others. It’s just amazing.”
Janel Savage is with Angel Outreach, one of the programs that participated in the Jingle Bell Christmas party. Savage is the Volunteer Coordinator of Angel Outreach, located in Conroe.
“We’re a 501c3 faith-based organization, and we help children between the ages of birth to 18, that are no longer living with their birth families, but are being placed with what we call kinship families, said Savage. It could be a grandparent, it could be an aunt and uncle, it could be an older brother or sister, or a friend and neighbor. “They will take in these children and have them for a period of time or adopt them.”
Savage said Angel Reach helps these families. Savage said these families don’t get the same aide that foster care families do.
“We fill the need for them. We offer mentors, tutoring. We have a food pantry and gently used clothing store. A lot of these families take in these kids and they’re living on a fixed income of social security, and now they may have one or three or five children.”
Savage said they also help kids between the ages of 16 to 24 that age out of the foster care system.
“There are many, many wonderful foster care families, but there are some children that, unfortunately, they either leave the system in whatever capacity and they have nowhere to go. “Many of them could be couch-surfing, living in someone’s car, living on the streets, in an abandoned building or in the woods. Angel Reach is there to help these kids. We do an intake, we give them a youth coach, we do a plan for them. “We try to see where they are with their education.”
Savage said they also check with the kids to make sure they have a birth certificate.
“You can’t get a job without your birth cerfificate.”
Savage said their Community Resource Center is located at 900 West Dallas Street in Conroe.
“We feed the homeless, the ones that have aged out, Monday through Thursday, breakfast and lunch. “We also have at our resources facilities, if they don’t have a place to live, we will give them an opportunity to come and wash their clothes, and take a shower while they’re meeting with their counselor or their education coordinator.”
Savage said they do have four homes that some of the youth can be placed in, but they don’t have enough space.
“If we can get them into our homes, we will give them a room to share. We’re all about giving a helping hand, not a hand out, but teaching them life skills so that they can live a life just like you and me, and try to have their hopes and dreams fulfilled.”
The Woodlands High School Softball Team helped raised money for the Jingle Bell Party and also volunteered at the party.
Jordan Jones is a team member.
“We did a homerun derby, so we could save up money to buy clothes for foster kids, and we do it every year,” said Jones.
Jones said the team raised about $1500 this year.