As you can imagine, when you have been raised in foster care, a government system that tosses you around from one group home or foster “family” to the next, the holidays are not particularly observed or are just plain painful to be acutely reminded of what you don’t have. The Alliance for Children’s Rights has worked for decades to advocate for this marginalized population by providing free legal services, facilitating access to available social programs, and offering real life support. In their efforts to connect youth with outside communities, they have partnered with us, which has been an extremely meaningful way to share our resources in various ways such as putting on a holiday party each year.
Last year our Chef Matt had youth help him make the salad for the buffet. It was fun to watch them taste fresh green beans for the first time! This year, we wanted to take it further by setting up action stations like this Build Your Own Crostini Station where youth could paint bread with vegetable purees and bean dips, healthy stuff. It’s so delightful to explain new foods, unprocessed foods, to youth who are making something to eat for themselves. I think they were overwhelmed here by all the colors and didn’t really know what to expect with the flavors, but they went for it anyway and piled on all kinds of roasted and pickled vegetables and marinated feta cheese.
Children gathered around the cookie decorating station and stayed there for a long while, taking great care with each of their creations.
Additionally my good friend Katey Denno got together some friends from Nailing Hollywood to provide little mini makeovers and manicures. It was a huge success! Burt’s Bees donated lots of lip stains for young girls to keep. It was such a wonderful feeling to see the youth with their nails so pretty, and their colorful lips beaming with large, bright smiles. Truly it was such a joy to watch.
Several more of my friends volunteered their time to help with the various stations as well as serve food and interact with the youth. The point was to make connections, to have positive, warm exchanges with adults who aren’t assigned to them. So many youth growing up in the foster system only have social workers and lawyers to cheer them on. Community mentors who offer encouragement and consistent positivity can have such a powerful impact to an unstable young adulthood.
Speaking of friends, let me also speak of strangers who generously answered a request I sent out to contribute building 60 baskets with practical household items for each youth to take away with them. It was touching that a woman visiting her grandchildren saw our request and took her littles out to shop and pick out shampoos, toothbrushes, lotions, paper goods, etc for them to present to us. A couple of brides brought in really nice unwanted wedding gifts (they could’ve returned them with their tags still on but instead generously donated them), and several people answered my call for specific items like 60 bath towels and cookie trays. Additionally our vendors contributed non-perishable food items that we paired with recipes, and a few friends helped organize it all into festive looking gifts. This was community in action, rising up, and it was so energizing to be a part of.
Well I didn’t see this coming but fell upon it as I scanned the room. A couple of children and a young adult put this plate together, and it sort of side struck me. Here we stand by anxiously wondering what social services will be shut down as our president-elect promises tax cuts. We are fearful. We are angry, and as caucasians, we are shameful of so much overt bigotry on display in support of his candidacy. Then, this gift from the hands of children and one young mother who grew up in the foster system. Wisdom and hope. That’s what we all left with once this event was over.
May the strength of unity keep us aware that it takes a village to raise a child. Villagers, community, we must come together in mass to help bridge the gaps that our vulnerable populations face, especially as those gaps become wider.
Thank you to the friends and strangers who contributed to this event, and for those of you who are so moved to donate or volunteer to help with the good work of this non-profit, please reach out to The Alliance here.