Foster care agency provides holiday cheer to youth


Tribune Staff Reports

George Junior Republic, a nonprofit agency providing services to children in foster care in south central and southern Indiana, recently conducted a Christmas party for its older youth clients and their families.

About 100 kids attended the event Dec. 12, 2019, at The Point in Seymour. This was the sixth year for the Christmas party. Last year’s was held in Columbus.

GJR Vice President Brandy Stark said the party was a great success and made a big impact on those who attended.

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“The holidays can be a hard time for many of our youth and families, and there are not as many opportunities for older youth, especially age 16 and over, to get Christmas gifts from organizations that may provide them for younger children,” Stark said.

“GJR is passionate about ensuring older youth in foster care have as much normalcy as possible all year but especially during the holidays when many of them do not get to see their families or are spending it in foster homes or residential centers,” she said.

The speaker for the night was 17-year-old Jaden, who told his story of his mother’s death, being the caregiver for his siblings and ultimately removal from his home. Jaden was able to speak of using all of this pain to help others as well as strengthen himself.

The party is funded through donations, including catering from Caleb Blackerby and Blackerby’s Hangar 5 Restaurant and First Class Catering in Columbus and disc jockey services provided by Matt Ortega.

Each child received gifts purchased specifically for them from their Christmas wish list thanks to the continued support of sponsors, including Precision Tools Service, Kristin Cummins and Switchyard Restaurant and Brewery and Tim Emmert of Studio Shag.

There also were several prizes raffled off, including televisions, Amazon Echos, electronics and accessories, self-care items such as cologne and body wash sets and makeup kits.

Guests could participate in holiday-themed activities throughout the evening, including crafts and games, and Santa made an appearance. There also was a photo booth where guests could have their picture taken and received a framed photo to take home.

Stark said the party is an example of how communities can come together to support foster care work.

“I was so proud of the way our employees and communities came together to provide this special night for our youth,” she said. “We are proud of the impact we have made while serving youth in our communities.”

The 2020 GJR older youth services Christmas party is scheduled for Dec. 17.

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