With the upcoming transition of oversight of Orange and Osceola counties’ child welfare services to a new lead agency in April, this holiday season has been filled with uncertainty for the staff of Family Services of Metro Orlando. Yet our commitment to empowering our community to create possibilities remains unchanged, even in the midst of personal crisis. In the past month, many of our staff members have gone above and beyond to share some much-needed cheer with the children and families we serve.
At our staff holiday lunch in mid-December, each person received a Target giftcard from our Board of Directors. At the same time, our Prevention and Diversion Specialists were collecting donations of warm winter clothing for 75 homeless families living in the Margaret Square community of Winter Park. When our staff members learned that many of the families had children and could not afford coats to protect them from this year’s near-record low winter temperatures, many of them chose to immediately donate their giftcards as well as cash and new coats to help. Together with other donations from our community, we were able to directly help keep these children safe this winter.
Shortly afterwards, another urgent need came to the attention of our Prevention and Diversion Team. A hardworking local family was going through a difficult financial situation and needed a crib for their infant. Through an all-staff e-mail chain, our team was able to generate and assemble a new crib for the family. Monetary donations directly from staff members were used to purchase a much-needed crib mattress as well.
To further help families struggling financially this time of year, Family Services Resource Specialists decided to use funds earned in a 2009 fundraiser to create gift baskets for families who were unable to afford a Christmas dinner this year. Through each of our Case Management Organizations, they were able to make the season a little brighter for 20 families with both dry and perishable food items as well as giftcards.
But the most valuable aspect of the work that we do is knowing that we are not alone in our desire to give every child a healthy, happy childhood during this holiday season. Our community cares about children in need, too.
While standing in line at a crowded store to purchase a specific coat requested by a youth, Prevention and Diversion Specialist Diana Curry discovered that she did not have enough money for the item.
“We thought we would have to leave without it, but a lady standing behind us us donated $20 to help us complete the money for the coat,” said Diana. “Many thanks goes out to her…Our families were just ecstatic to receive the coats we bought!”
And several days later, when we were contacted by a future foster family asking how they could help children this Christmas, Family Development Specialist Trinity Kimble directed them to our involvement with the Kissimmee Parks and Recreation Christmas Drive. The couple responded by donating $500 worth of toys and coats for children in need.
“I am ever grateful that I have had the opportunity to give back and pay it forward through my job,” said Trinity. “[Our entire staff] deserves kudos for our relentless sacrifices and dedicated commitments to all those we serve.”
Family Services Staff is proud to serve Orange and Osceola counties. We wish you a joyous season!