GREENSBURG — Kiowa County Residents have shown dedication and overwhelming generosity in support of foster children in the southwest Kansas this Christmas season. Already three car-loads of gifts have been delivered to Saint Francis Ministries in response to Angel Tree need cards, and more gifts are on the way.
“People here just kept asking for more angels” said Julie Keeton, manager of the Kiowa County Pharmacy, which has become an Angel Tree headquarters distributing need cards and gathering corresponding gifts.
"I call Saint Francis every year and ask for a list of needs for children in care," Keeton said. “In the past, we have gotten 20-30 angels, and whatever wasn’t taken, the staff and or pharmacy would just pick up and take care of. But this year, we initially took 40 and they were gone rapidly. People were still asking for angels, so we took 10 more, thinking a few would be left over for the pharmacy to take care of and they were sponsored almost immediately.”
By this time, Keeton said the Angel Tree program was at the deadline for participants and there were still none for the pharmacy to sponsor. She called Saint Francis again and asked if there were any last-minute children taken in or Angels that hadn’t been taken elsewhere.
"They sent 19 more Angel need cards, and those were claimed right away,” she said.
Keeton is not only the local pharmacist but also has been one of the founding members of the local Kiowa County Support Group, which established a Foster Care Closet in every city in the county in the past year.
The foster closet helps foster parents who get a last-minute placement with supplies that might not be brought with the child when they are pulled out of the home.
“Oftentimes, either they don’t have time to get the child what they need before taking them or simply the parents didn’t have much on hand for them to begin with," Keeton said.
Many of the items on the Angel Tree wish list were practical items like coats, socks and underwear.
“It’s not that the foster parents won’t provide these things, it’s just that in most cases the kids are not used to having a parent or adult provide for them,” Keeton said. ”Caseworkers directly ask the kids without the foster parents present to know what the kids need so oftentimes the kids are just thinking in survival mode instead of just getting to be a kid.”
For the Angel Tree program, children in foster care are allowed to list anything, but it is understood that those shopping for the Angel Tree are never required to purchase everything on the list.
“I think most people got everything on those lists, seeing how many carloads of gifts we have had turned in this year,” Keeton said. "It has been phenomenal."
Although the gift-gathering for foster kids has now ended, Keeton said there were still some needs to be met before Christmas.
“We are always in need of gift cards at the Foster Care Closets or really anything a child/teenager could need or use, we need in the closets,” she said. "We like to also have items available that foster kids can gift to their care-givers."