by: Trang Pham Bui, WLOX Reporter
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) –
Dozens of foster care children won’t feel forgotten this Christmas. On Thursday, a trailer loaded with gifts arrived at the Harrison County Child Protective Services office.
“Awesome! Oh, whoa!” Those were just some of the comments heard as the trailer doors opened. Inside was $10,000 worth of gifts for children who’ve been abused, neglected, or removed from their homes.”It’s amazing,” one social worker exclaimed.
A group of social workers joined volunteers in unloading all the toys and goodies. They carried 125 blankets, several bikes, 125 headphones, 50 tablets, watches for the boys, and curling irons for the girls. There were also 100 duffel bags, so the children can have something to carry their personal belongings as they move from house to house.
“I think it’s really special, and we really appreciate it,” said social worker Simarjit Ponder. While the younger children in the foster care system usually get presents, the donations received Thursday will go to mostly teenagers, who often feel left out this time of year.
“I had a worker in there just a second ago say, ‘I haven’t seen something like this in eight years.’ To be able to provide in-depth a great Christmas for every child that’s in our custody, it just makes me smile inside,” said Ricardo Bolton, Harrison County CPS Regional Director.
The Pati Bannister Foundation spearheaded the donation drive. Shaggy’s Restaurants, Arbor Properties, and the Island School of Performing Arts helped raise the money and collect the gifts.
“In the past, they’ve had to tell children, ‘We don’t have you a Christmas gift,’ and you just need to encourage the kids, and this is one way we can put a smile on their face to encourage them,” said Bannister Foundation President Dan Bolton.
“This means a lot to our teenagers. Thank you. Y’all made me cry,” said Ponder.
The Walmart store in Gulfport also coordinated the purchase of most of the items. Spreading holiday joy to children in need was a community effort.
“This is truly a blessing, and it’ll bless a lot of children in custody. I just appreciate y’all’s help,” Bolton told the group.