While many of us look forward to spending holidays with our family, some of the youth participating in our Project MYSELF and Youth Advisory Boards do not have a permanent family with whom they can celebrate the holidays. The youth served in both of these programs are currently, or have been, involved in the public child welfare system. Many of them experience out of home placement due to abuse and neglect at home, and while some youth are able to return to their families or are adopted, many others do not. These youth “age out” of the child welfare system and are on their own by age 21, without the benefit of a permanent family to call home.
Staff from our two programs felt strongly that these “aged out” youth deserve a holiday gift just like the rest of us. Through the handiwork of Mia Sena, Director of the Office of Training and Educational Programs at IFF, along with her daughter Francesca and her friend Ciara Nicholson who are both juniors in high school, 50 personalized holiday stockings were created and filled for our most needy youth. Francesca and Ciara truly became holiday elves and sought monetary and personal product donations from all around New Jersey, including the Somerville Central Hook & Ladder Fire Department, the Columbiette Midwest Chapter and Auxiliaries from Somerville, Millstone Valley, and Warren, and the Girl Scouts of Northern NJ Troop #95385. They collected over $700 in cash and product donations which enabled them to fill each stocking with a small cash donation along with a warm scarf, candy, and many useful toiletries. Dean Cathryn Potter also provided a generous donation for each stocking resulting in many wonderful holiday surprises for our youth. On behalf of our staff and the youth we serve, we thank you for your thoughtfulness at this season, and for making a difference!
Project staff also ran 5 regional holiday meet and greet events for our vulnerable youth, where time was spent decorating gingerbread houses, playing holiday games and raffling holiday gift cards.