With Christmas quickly approaching, there is no better time of year to exercise goodwill or spread warmth and cheer. Christmastime can be an unwelcome reminder to those that lack a traditional family or support system, which is why offering a helping hand can go a long way. Here at BCFS, holiday events are in full force as we bring together families and support those in need.
Here are some of the holiday initiatives BCFS has hosted so far this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Christmas in Candyland
On Wednesday December 9, BCFS hosted its annual Christmas celebration for Abilene teens, youth and families in BCFS programs that provide life advice, temporary shelter, and parenting education. The group of 40 gathered to exchange gifts, play games, make gingerbread houses and even win prizes at the BCFS Health and Human Services Center in Abilene.
“Each of the folks in our programs received a gift package donated by our generous partners at Wylie Christian Church,” said Martin Pittman, program lead for the BCFS Abilene transition center. “Each package included journals and notepads, gloves, pens and pencils, a Christmas ornament, snacks, hygiene products, plus jewelry or scented soap for the gals, and a flashlight or portable radio for the guys.”
The BCFS Center in Abilene is a safe haven for youth, including those in foster care and the juvenile justice system, or any youth struggling with the transition into adulthood and independence.
Christmas Masquerade Ball
On Thursday, December 17, BCFS transformed Sunset Station in San Antonio into a winter wonderland for its annual Christmas dinner for local youth from foster care. Donning formalwear kindly donated by the National Council of Jewish Women, about 250 youth attended the event. Also wearing colorful masquerade masks in celebration of this year’s theme, the young adults enjoyed delicious Christmas dinner and dessert.
The young adults — from BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program — also received backpacks, gift cards, and stockings stuffed with small gifts, courtesy of Grace Point Church and the THRU project, a mentorship program for young people aging out of foster care.
Dinner was catered by the RK Group, desserts donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats. Attendees also enjoyed comedy sketches by Alamo City Improv and classic Christmas songs sung by the choir from Christian Family Church. Christian Family Church also donated stockings, gift cards, hygiene products and sweet treats. Christmas dinner was catered by the RK Group and desserts were donated by Gigi’s Cupcakes and Claire’s Sweet Treats.
“Christmas can be an emotional time for the youth we serve from foster care, many of whom are separated from their families,” explains Miriam Attra, BCFS Community Based Services Director. “The Christmas Masquerade Ball gives these youth a chance to celebrate with their BCFS ‘family’ and friends – giving them an unforgettable experience that would otherwise be out of reach.”
BVS Live Nativity
Residents of Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) presented a living nativity scene during the annual Christmas in the Village celebration. BVT is a caring residential community for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, part of the global system of BCFS health and human service non-profit organizations.
Every year, BVS’ Christmas in the Village provides live entertainment, Christmas shopping, delicious food, games and more to people of all ages. Even better, the event increases community awareness of its services to special needs individuals.
Head Start Christmas Celebrations
On December 16, BCFS Education Services’ Head Start helped dozens of local children and families make merry this holiday season, with help from several organizations in the Johnson City-area.
The Christmas party, for children and families enrolled in the Johnson City Head Start program at the Settlement Event Center, came courtesy of the LBJ National Park Service. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance at the party and spent quality time talking with each child, while parents enjoyed snapping photos of their children on Santa’s lap. Food and drinks were donated by several local markets.
The next morning, several Park Rangers from LBJ National Historic Ranch stopped by the center, armed with guitars and a whole lot of holiday spirit. Park Rangers Dave Schafer, Brian Perry, Kathleen Fry and Patrick Pelarski sang with the children, read Christmas stories and helped the children make ornaments.
“We have wonderful families and children in our program,” says Head Start Center Coordinator Karen Rogers. “We love working with every single one of them – it’s especially joyful to celebrate the holidays with them. We are so proud to be part of the education and social service initiatives started when Lyndon B. Johnson was president.”
Head Start aims to propel children ages 3 to 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds toward academic success and prosperity through the provision of educational, health, nutritional and social services.
Cookies with Santa
On December 17, foster and adoptive families in San Antonio received a special treat at BCFS’ Cookies with Santa event. The half-hour event, organized for kids and youth placed in homes by BCFS, was attended by more than 120 children and caregivers. Families mingled, enjoying pizza and cookies and photographs with Santa Claus.
During their meeting with Santa, each child received the gift they had asked Santa for prior to the event, with help from BCFS staff. Gifts included soccer balls, dolls, and everything in between. Old St. Nick was expertly portrayed by Efrén Alvarado, Training Coordinator for BCFS’ Foster Care and Adoption.
“Many of the children we place in foster and adoptive homes have experienced trauma and hardships in the past,” said Alvarado. “We connect them to loving, supportive homes, whether they are permanent or temporary. Christmastime is a wonderful opportunity to show each child they are special, they are treasured, in a way some of them have never experienced. I’ll never forget the joy on their faces when they opened their gifts.”