The Kansas Department for Children and Families is helping to make sure often-forgotten young people are remembered this holiday season.
Through the agency’s Hope for the Holidays annual gift drive, the agency collected gift cards, monetary donations and greeting cards to provide to young adults who have experienced foster care and who otherwise might not receive a gift. DCF collected gift cards instead of gifts this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are so thankful to have programs like these at DCF that honor and recognize these youth during the winter holidays,” said DCF Secretary Laura Howard. “Many of these young people go without traditional holiday celebrations and gifts from loved ones. It’s DCF’s goal to remind them they are not alone and have a whole community of supporters.”
Hope for the Holidays raised more than $23,000 in monetary and gift card donations from across the state and received several hundred greeting cards that will be shared with youth. Donors included DCF staff, businesses, community organizations, faith communities, families and individuals.
Bailey Videto, 21, and her daughter Isabella, 4, of Topeka, were two recipients of this year’s Hope for Holidays gift drive.
“It means a lot,” said Videto, a nursing student at Johnson County Community College who works at a dental office. “I think that this program is awesome. Not only the gifts am I very thankful for, but even them helping me out with school throughout the year. It’s wonderful, I think it’s amazing that people donate money to help kids that were in foster care that maybe don’t have a lot of family members. I certainly don’t, it’s just me and my daughter.”
The DCF Independent Living Program works with about 725 youth from foster care, ages 18-26 to ensure they have the support they need to become self-sufficient, productive adults.
“The holiday season can be a very lonely experience for young adults with limited family and relational supports,” said Michelle Reichart, Independent Living Program Manager. “Year after year, Hope for the Holidays provides a dose of joy for these young people. We are so grateful for the support of the individuals, families, and communities whose donations make this program possible.”
Notable donations included 56 gift cards worth $2,800 from the O’Brate Foundation, located in Garden City; 22 gifts cards worth $550 from Great Bend DCF staff and Great Bend community members; 55 gift cards worth $2,400 from Seven Dolors Catholic Parish in Manhattan; over $4,000 in gift cards from First United Methodist Church in Manhattan; $1,970 in gift cards from Wichita Region DCF staff; and 47 gift cards worth $1,590 from KPERS.