Last year, a five-year-old boy named Elijah was one of 5,000 children taken into CPS custody in Harris County. His mother was addicted to drugs so she was unable to care for him, and because there was no electricity or water, his home was deemed unsafe. But with so many caseloads, CPS caseworkers aren’t always able to give these children the individual attention they deserve.
That’s where Child Advocates comes in. Child Advocates is a private nonprofit that matches passionate volunteers with children in custody to help CPS guide those children out of the foster care system and into permanent, loving homes. That process can take a long time, however, and children like Elijah will usually celebrate at least one birthday while in foster care. Last week, families with students at West University Elementary collected six carloads of brand-new toys, sporting goods, games, books and clothes—plus almost $1,600 in cash and gift cards—to stock Rachel & Gilbert’s closet at the Child Advocates office. This closet holds gifts for children of all ages to provide them with birthday gifts; and, very often these are either the only new items they have ever been given or the first gifts they have ever received.
The toy drive was the first of the school’s four community service projects for the year, which aim not only to support local charities, but also to educate students about the underlying problems that these organizations try to assuage.
“I learned that not all kids have parents who can take care of them. We wanted to help raise money to buy gifts for them,” Fourth-grader Amelia Choi said.
Amelia, along with her sister Alexa, and Alexandra and Natalie Torgerson, Meredith and Cade Lium, and Zoe and Mia Hirshfeld, sold homemade lemonade, brownies and rainbow loom bracelets at a baseball game. Other students held similar fund-raising events, or went shopping with their parents to buy gifts.
“It’s fun raising money with friends to help other kids!” Kindergartner Alexa Choi said.