NORMAN — Members of the Citizens Advisory Board of Cleveland County Child Welfare Unit Inc. are calling all local Santa Clauses to help area foster children have a bright and merry Christmas.
In it’s 22nd year, the Secret Santa program list was released last week and is 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. When the local Santas call, they can pick a child based on age or based on the amount they want to spend. The wish list dollar guidelines per child for 2012 are ages: 0-2, $50; 3-4, $75; 5-10, $100; and 11-18, $125.
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, co-founder of C.A.B., along with Jackie 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.
“Last year, we helped 642 kids and I’m estimating about 550 this year,” CAB Public Relations Officer Nyky Wilson said.
The idea of CAB is to help foster families in need. If a child is placed 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 Coach’s Luncheon. This year the luncheon raised more than $70,000.
“Our request in the other program range have gotten so huge that we have a lot of our funds going that way. As an example, with the fires this past year we had multiple families that were affected that we helped with new clothes for the kids maybe a certificate to Walmart to get toiletries,” Wilson said. “With the Secret Santa program, that used to be our main focus on where we spent our money. But with all the other needs that have occurred and the fact that we are the only county in Oklahoma that has a program like this, we are really looking for Secret Santa to run itself through the community with people shopping for the kids and us being able to use those funds that we raised through the Coaches Luncheon on the special needs program.”
Due to new regulations that were put through on DHS, county lines have moved, which means right now fewer foster children are signed up for the Secret Santa program. This is something that worries CAB board members.
“We are still working very closely with DHS and the social workers that if we have helped families in the past, that they aren’t to be forgotten because we don’t want a child that has had a Christmas before to not get that Christmas because the county lines have changed,” Wilson said.
CAB board members also are hoping that this year an individual would step up and help purchase gift cards for the teenagers that are in foster care. In the past, few in the community have wanted to donate cards, which meant that CAB would be responsible for making those requests.
“We would rather our funds go to these other special needs that we are offering. We probably fill about $20,000 a year in gift card request. A lot of the reason teenagers request that is that is the only time of year they get to go shopping. A lot of it is that they have siblings that they will use their gift card and go shop for because they don’t have any other way to have income. Those are the kids that really break my heart because they want a gift card that they can go buy for somebody else,” Wilson said.
Other items that CAB always sees a need for are bike helmets, batteries and gift wrapping supplies.
“A lot of times they don’t have those wrapping supplies. If someone would like to donate 50 rolls of wrapping paper or things of tape or bows so that these foster parents can wrap gifts,” Wilson said. “As a board, obviously we don’t mind spending that, but at the same time if we could help a family with diapers or air conditioning.”
To become a Secret Santa, call 321-5999 and ask for “Secret Santa.” The office will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. All gifts should be delivered unwrapped and marked with the child’s name and control number by 5 p.m. on Dec. 13, to 2745 Broce Drive, Norman.
For more information on C.A.B., visit cabok.org.