By Daniel Silliman
Laurence Nelson needs the public's help. The social services supervisor for the county's Department of Family and Children Services, is trying to save Christmas for more than a dozen teenagers.
DFCS is providing Christmas presents for more than 300 foster care children in the county, but the presents program has come up short. Eight teenage males and eight teenage females have no sponsors.
"They're in foster care," Nelson said. "They're really struggling to deal with the situation they're in, so we don't want to leave them without anything on Christmas morning."
Looking through the wish lists, Nelson said the teens have asked for gift cards from Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Foot Locker. The boys have asked for MP3 players and the girls have asked for Bath and Body Works merchandise.
Laurence estimates he needs $800 -- $50 each -- to give these teenagers Christmas.
The gifts are being given through DFCS' Pick an Elf program, where community members provide Christmas presents for children who have been taken away from their parents and are in state custody. State and federal funds cannot be used for giving gifts, so the county solicits sponsors and donations, every year.
Perennially, it is easier to provide presents for the younger children, the 3- and 4-year-olds, who want teddy bears and picture books, Nelson said. As the children get older as teenagers, however, providing Christmas presents for them gets to be more difficult.
It may be especially important for the older foster children, Laurence said, because, "they already have the mentality that people don't care about them."
A few presents can change all that.
"I've seen teenagers, just because they got a good Christmas gift, their attitude totally changed," Nelson said. "They feel like they're abandoned. They're stuck out there, and then, all the sudden, Christmas morning, they have the best Christmas ever, and they realize, 'You know, people didn't have to do this for me.'"
Nelson needs the remaining sponsorships and donations by the end of this week. Anyone who is interested in helping can call him at (770) 473-2492, or can call (770) 603-4647.
"Any help we can get [is needed], so we can make sure these kids have a happy Christmas," he said. "We really appreciate everybody who has already sponsored a child this year, making this a continuing success. All of the children will be taken care of with something."