WILDLIGHT, Florida—Christmas can be a tough time of year for foster children, says Jennifer Pendergraph, director of the Nassau Service Center for Family Support Services in Nassau County, Florida.
One way FSS tries to help is by ensuring each child receives a gift, but it’s not always easy to do.
“Prior to Rayonier coming in, we’d have to beg people to help” buy gifts for the children, Jennifer says.
How Our Partnership with FSS Began
Our involvement with FSS began in the summer of 2015, when the Rayonier Community Fund provided a grant and volunteers to help build the FSS Bright Space visitation center in Nassau County. While working on the center, Tracie Gibbs, a Rayonier executive assistant, and Kim Sartor, who works in Rayonier’s Public Affairs department, learned about the FSS Roberta's Angels program, which seeks to provide the children gifts. They reached out to fellow Rayonier employees to see if we could help.
Rayonier Grants Angels’ Wishes for Christmas
We asked FSS to provide three Christmas wishes for each of its Nassau foster children (100 children that year). Employees signed up to grant the wishes, eventually fulfilling every wish.
Since then, buying Angel Gifts for FSS’s foster kids has become a Rayonier tradition. Every year, employees sign up for their Angels, then purchase their gifts – which could be bicycles, tablets, games, skateboards, MP3 players, dolls, action figures, LEGOs, and other toys. They wrap the gifts and place them under trees throughout Rayonier’s corporate headquarters, awaiting “load the truck day,” when the gifts are moved to FSS to be distributed to the children.
In 2018, Rayonier employees granted three wishes for all 115 children in FSS’s foster care program in Nassau County.
“We want the children to know that they’re loved,” Kim says. “They’re not going to know who we are, they may never meet us. But they’ll know that there were people in the community that loved them enough to get these gifts.”
To learn how you can help Family Support Services Inc. of North Florida, visit fssjax.org.