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A chance to turn a frown upside down

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Department of Family and Children's Services (DFACS) is currently in search of individuals, businesses, churches and civic groups to sponsor foster children, families and seniors for the "Pick an Elf" Christmas program.

Donations for the program will be accepted until Dec. 23, Monday through Friday, from 5:30 a.m., to 7:30 p.m. They may be dropped off at the Social Services Annex of the Clayton County DFACS office at 877 Battlecreek Road, in Jonesboro.

Though donations will be accepted until Dec. 23, foster children will receive their gifts on Dec. 19, and Dec. 20, explained Renee Johnson, a volunteer coordinator for the program.

According to Johnson, individuals who would like to donate items, or sponsor a child, family, or senior, must fill out a sponsor form. People can get the form by visiting www.ccdfcs.org, to download it on their computers, or request it by e-mailing Johnson, at: Rajohnson@dhr.state.ga.us.

They must fill out their general information, and whether they would like to donate, or sponsor. Once the form is completed, they must fax it to (770) 359-1929, according to Johnson.

"It [receiving gifts from sponsors] makes them feel special," she said. "Makes it [Christmas] a little bit better."

Johnson said, once she receives the form, she contacts the interested individuals, or groups, and lets them know of the items they can donate. If they wish to be a sponsor, she provides them with a wish list from a child, family or senior. Sponsors are not obligated to purchase everything on the wish list, she said.

"They [participants] can decide how they would want to do it," she said. "Some send checks, gift cards, or some companies have toy drives, so they would donate the toys."

The program has been around for several years, and most of it is geared toward foster children, although abused or neglected seniors, and families are also included, Johnson said.

"Their lists are so precious," said Johnson, about the seniors' wish lists. "They ask for fruit baskets, clothes, a lot of sweaters, T-shirts, radios [and] food."

According to Johnson, seniors, in Clayton County DFACS' Adult Protective Services program, may have previously been neglected or abused in a variety ways. They may have been deprived of their medication, or food, by family members, or caregivers.

There are "approximately 100 elderly citizens" in the program, Johnson said.

Participants who wish to sponsor families, under the Family Preservation Services program, may provide gifts for the foster children only, said Johnson, but many sponsors "request to provide gifts to the parents of the child."

"There are sponsors that want to do something for the entire family," she said.

Families may find themselves in Family Preservation Services, if parents pose a minor threat to their child, said Johnson. Families will work with a case manager to improve the situation.

Although 230 foster children currently have sponsors, there are still 35 children in need of someone to provide them with a Merry Christmas, Johnson said.

"To provide them with a little Christmas, since they [foster children and seniors] are away from their homes ... this is a way for the community to get involved," she said.