The number of kids in foster care is growing, said Leslie May, spokeswoman for Cap the Gap, a local nonprofit that helps to cover expenses for foster kids so they’re able to have more normal lives.
Cap the Gap, which serves foster children in Sullivan County, expects a higher-than-usual number of foster kids will be in need of Christmas gifts this year, May said, and the organization is seeking general donations as well as people to sponsor individual children.
“Every single child that is in our system... they’re truly in need,” said May, who noted that 226 kids are currently in foster care in Sullivan County. In the broader region of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, she said, there are more than 800.
Even meeting the need in Sullivan County can become a challenge.
It costs about $150 to buy gifts and necessities for a child at Christmas, she said, and any donations not spent at Christmas are used to help foster kids throughout the year with things like clothing, yearbooks, sports or camp fees, field trips and prom dresses – little things that are essential to help foster kids to have an experience similar to that of their peers.
Cap the Gap got started more than 20 years ago, an outgrowth of the local Junior League that’s focused on helping to bridge the gap for children in foster care.
With Christmas less than three months away, Cap the Gap volunteers are assessing foster kids’ needs, finding out their Christmas wishes, and seeking sponsors and donations to make sure all of those needs are met.
Anyone can be a sponsor. They are sometimes individuals or families and sometimes groups – like Sunday school classes, volunteer or professional organizations, groups of friends or co-workers. Sometimes, business owners will donate items the children need.
Julie Gunn, a board member and volunteer for Cap the Gap, said that for her, sponsoring a child each Christmas is a family tradition.
“Even though I have kids in college now, it is still something that’s a family tradition for us to go out and fill those wish lists,” she said. “It’s something we do as a family. It makes you appreciate what you have, and it makes you realize how many children are in need.”
Gunn said every dime that’s donated to Cap the Gap is used directly to meet the needs of a child; the all-volunteer board deducts nothing for administrative costs.
Donations for Cap the Gap are accepted all year and can be mailed to Cap the Gap, 1225 N. Eastman Road, Suite 105, P.O. Box 283, Kingsport TN 37664-3161. For more information about how to sponsor Christmas for a foster child in need, contact Christmas Project Chairwoman Tonya Ick at 423-288-7075.