FORT MYERS — An annual holiday program that provides gifts to children in foster care is short on donations, and organizers are asking for community support so children will have a memorable Christmas.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve switched to an online donation portal, which makes it easy to shop and donate online, but doesn’t create the same warm, fuzzy feelings for donors as buying a gift in a retail store and wrapping it,” said Jessica Stanfield, executive director of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit. “We are still in need of donations as Christmas approaches, but remain hopeful that the community will again step forward to help us provide gifts for children in temporary or foster homes.”
Each December, Guardian ad Litem’s volunteer child advocates make recommendations for gifts based on conversations with foster parents, guardians and children. Volunteer child advocates are court-certified and serve as the voice for abused, neglected and abandoned youth in Southwest Florida as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare systems.
In 2020, the Guardian ad Litem Foundation created an Amazon Wish List that allows donors to safely and conveniently purchase gifts online and have them delivered directly to the child’s Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocate. Children range in age from 2 months old to 18 years old. Gift choices include age-appropriate items like learning toys, games, dolls, clothing, shoes, electronics and gift cards.
As of Dec. 10, there were 253 children in Lee County whose names were still listed on the Amazon Wish List. The Guardian ad Litem Foundation raises money to recruit and train volunteers, as well as support the Children’s Needs Program that provides “extras” like birthday parties, tutoring, summer camp programs, movie tickets and registration fees for clubs and sports.
“We want every child in foster care to feel ‘normal’ despite circumstances that might be out of his or her control,” Stanfield said. “That includes unwrapping gifts on Christmas. It’s been a challenging year for everyone in Southwest Florida, but we’re hoping that those who are able to give can provide a Merry Christmas for a child in need.”
To access the Holiday Wish List, please visit VoicesForKids.org/GAL-Program/Lee-Holiday-Wishes or call 239-533-1435. The deadline to donate is Dec. 15.
About Guardian ad Litem Foundation:
Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, was established in 1984 and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports Guardian ad Litem programs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation, a United Way Partner Agency, has a mission of ensuring that every abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Southwest Florida has a voice as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare system. The Foundation raises funds that help meet a child’s health, educational and social needs, as well as provide support for highly trained volunteer advocates who represent the best interests of a child until a safe, permanent placement is established. For additional information, visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.