Groups donate toys to foster “sense of normalcy”


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Kate Hagberg of Viera and fellow members of the Charity Chicks civic group are giving Christmas toys and gifts to youngsters in the foster care system — from birth to young adults aging out of foster care — to give them a sense of normalcy at an otherwise tough time.

Linda Wiggins

The holiday season stirs generosity in even the Scrooges among us, and this year the community has plenty of opportunity to give. This month Charity Chicks will hold their third annual Festival of Wreaths fundraiser, and the Greek American Association of Brevard (GAAB) will host their second annual toy drive, all to benefit children under the care of Devereux Florida.

Devereux is a nonprofit that brings behavioral healthcare services to children and adolescents, and they take care of nearly 1,000 children annually.

“We have children in residential treatment, in foster care and as outpatients,” says Patty Hurst, donor relations manager for Devereux. “All of those thousand children need a holiday gift.”

The children typically come from impoverished backgrounds and are unfamiliar with what most Americans take for granted, from visiting Santa to baking Christmas cookies. Gifts bring a sense of normalcy during the holiday season.

The Festival of Wreaths hosted by Charity Chicks will be held at One Senior Place, and Devereux will use the money raised to buy the children gifts.

Starting Dec. 2, people will bid on themed wreaths and other gifts. The festival will finish with the gala on Dec. 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or a gift card donation, and it’s free for children under 12. Guests will enjoy abundant hors d’oeuvres, drinks and desserts, as well as craft vendors and live music. Children can do crafts, have their faces painted and get their photos taken with Santa.

“Every year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Denise Leblanc of Charity Chicks.

The toy drive hosted by GAAB will be a “brunch and mimosas” event at the CasaBella Clubhouse on Dec. 15 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The brunch is free to anyone who brings unwrapped toys.

“We were so thrilled and so humbled with the participation [last year],” says Ioanna Hawkins, secretary of GAAB. “This year the children have increased and we decided to do the toy run again.”

Community members who can’t make it to the drive but still wish to donate can call GAAB.

“The children ask, ‘Where did this come from? Who gave me a gift? They don’t even know me!’” says Hurst. “They’re appreciative that somebody cares.”

For more information about the toy drive, or to schedule a toy pickup, call 321-610-6050. For more information about the Festival of Wreaths, call 321-751-6771. To learn more about Devereux, go to devereuxfl.org or call 321-258-1772.

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