By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — For Tracy Curtis, sitting on the board of directors for the Citizen Advisory Board is not an obligation, it’s a privilege.
Curtis, who has opened her home to many in need, knows first-hand how some children in the foster care system are treated. Curtis also thinks that no child should be forgotten on Christmas morning.
“I have a kid who has been involved in foster care in my house and I see how she feels disconnected. I don’t think she has any faith in something like Christmas. I also don’t think she feels a lot of self worth that she deserves a Christmas,” Curtis said. “I think when the parents get in trouble, a lot of times the kids shoulder that burden and they know that something is broken. And what child doesn’t want to get some gifts?”
That’s where the CAB Secret Santa program steps in. For more than 20 years, the Secret Santa program has been available for those interested in purchasing Christmas gifts for children that have been placed in foster care. The gifts will later be delivered to children that are away from their birth parents on Christmas Day. Local elves can pick a child based on age or based on the amount they want to spend.
“We are still recruiting volunteers to sort gifts and recruiting shoppers. Our shoppers are elves,” Curtis said.
Individuals who didn’t want to shop are also encouraged to donate money for gifts.
CAB was established to help foster families in need. CAB will give money to help the family buy essentials like diapers, a crib or formula. Most of the funding for CAB comes from the annual Coaches Luncheon.
The idea of giving Christmas gifts to foster children was born a few years ago from a couple who worked for a bank in Moore that were foster parents. One Christmas, the couple recruited their bank to provide Christmas gifts for the foster care program in Cleveland County.
The couple then moved, but it was obvious that the program had to continue. CAB was formed in 1989 when Sue Durrett, along with Jaci Williams, began its mission. Durrett and Williams started working with different companies and people in the community to help provide a Christmas for, at that time, 69 children.
“We have more kids than we’ve ever had. In the past, we’ve served around 500 children. This year, we have somewhere between 600 and 700 kids,” Curtis, public relations chair for CAB, said.
Curtis invites not only individuals in the community, but groups of friends, Bunco clubs, Bible study groups, and coworkers to ban together and help make Christmas extra special for children in the county.
“For the family that is looking for something wholesome to do for their neighbors that would actually make a difference, this is a win. These kids are all around us everyday. We need their neighbors and their friends to serve them,” Curtis said. “With all the restructuring at DHS and all of the loss of caseworkers, to be able to provide these kids with a quality Christmas is, well, the reason I serve on the board.”
Patrick Grace is the co-chair of this year’s Secret Santa along with Whitney Alvis.
“We try to match the list exactly, so that the kids get what they ask for. These kids are constantly reminded by the system and other kids that they don’t fit in and the purpose of this is to make them feel Normal,” Grace said.
Other items that CAB always sees a need for are bike helmets, batteries and gift wrapping supplies.
“I think the fracture in DHS requires more people to step forward,” Curtis said.
To participate in Secret Santa, call Williams at 321-5999. Donations also can be sent to Citizen’s Advisory Board, P.O. Box 1087, Norman, OK 73070
For more information on CAB, visit cabok.org.
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