Fresh-cooked family meals. Long-awaited reunions with loved ones. Keeping old traditions alive while starting new ones. Counting our blessings from the year gone by.
No matter what “the holidays” look like in your family, this season is all about the things that bring us together. It’s about setting aside distractions and spending time with the people we care about most. And above all, it’s a reminder to be thankful for what we have – and to share what we can with others.
In the wake of COVID-19 and devastating weather events, many families in Florida don’t have a festive holiday season to look forward to. Whether it’s a child’s first Christmas without having mom or dad with them, a parent who can’t afford to put a big Thanksgiving meal on the table, or a family displaced from their home, this time of year can be especially difficult for our neighbors who are struggling.
At Embrace Families, we’re grateful for everyone who finds their own unique way to support kids and families in need. We give thanks:
For the caregivers, from foster parents and relative caregivers to adoptive families. Whether they’re opening their homes and hearts to a child from another family … or taking on the role of parent for a grandchild, niece or nephew, or younger sibling, they step up to provide safe and loving homes where kids can learn, play and heal.
For the foundations, whose generous grants fund life-changing services in our community. Last year more than 40 Central Floridians found safe housing, rental assistance and family services through the Pathways to Home Program, thanks to a boost in funding through a grant from the Universal Orlando Foundation. And this summer, dozens of teens in foster care gained on-the-job experience through Career Builder internships because of grants from CareerSource and the AT&T Foundation.
For community organizations, who share what they have with those who don’t. Every year the Kissimmee Elks Lodge hosts an annual holiday toy distribution for foster youth of all ages, while neighbors in Lake Nona unite as a Thanksgiving Basket Brigade to collect and share bundles of potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the fixings for families needing a holiday feast. Other contributions are more “out of the box”: The Dr. Phillips Center, for example, donated 100 ‘Hamilton’ tickets to give siblings living in separate foster homes memorable time together; while the South Seminole Rotary funded back-to-school uniforms, fulfilling an immediate need. Whatever the gift … all support reflects the character of a caring community.
For the people from all walks of life who give their time and talent. From those who dedicate their careers to building healthy families as case workers or counselors, to those who contribute as volunteers, advocates and thoughtful voters … everyone has the power to make an impact.
Together, we’ve helped families heal and kept children in safe homes. We’ve invested in education, mental health care and other preventive services for those at greatest risk in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. But we’ve also made a difference in the little things: the joy in kids’ faces when they spot a gift for them under the tree, or the relief parents feel knowing they don’t have to choose between a holiday dinner and paying the power bill.
To learn more about how you can share in the magic this holiday season – or how you can make a difference all year round – visit embracefamilies.org.
It truly takes a village – and Central Florida shows up time after time when called upon. Thank you.
Maureen Brockman is the Vice President of Embrace Families Foundation.