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DFCS seeks Christmas sponsors for foster kids

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County Department of Child and Family Services is looking for sponsors to grant some local foster children's wishes this holiday.

While Volunteer Resource Coordinator Deborah Barinowski said a number of businesses and individuals have already generously signed up to sponsor more than 500 of their foster children for Christmas, about 64 children still need sponsors.

The DFCS annual Christmas Wish List program unites foster children with community members, giving people a chance to temporarily adopt and shop for a foster child in need.

Barinowski said once a sponsor signs on to help, they are given a list complete with a child's Christmas gift list.

"Some (lists) are long, some are short," Barwinowski said. "So we're just asking people to be as generous as they can."

Program Coordinator Jennifer Mattola is responsible for pairing sponsors with children and said it's a very personalized program.

"I'll match them with a child and give them the wish list and contact information of the case manager and foster parent," Mattola said. "We ask them to shop off the list, obviously not getting everything because it is a wish list, but a few things they want and need."

Mattola said DFCS continues to execute the program year after year because it proved some normalcy for the children in foster care.

"It gives the foster children in our community the chance to have a real Christmas," Mattola said of the program. "Foster homes receive funds, but Christmas and birthdays are extras that our government doesn't cover."

While sponsors should prepare to spend about $300 on the foster child they adopt, Mattola said those who cannot financially spend that amount can make toy, clothing and monetary donations at their Lawrenceville location, 446 W. Crogan Street. More information about donating and sponsorship can be found by calling Mattola at 678-518-5758.

Barwinowski said she feels the program is a win, win for both the child and the sponsor.

"This goes past just the toys and presents," Barwinowski said. "This really makes the children feel loved by members of the community."

SideBar: If you sponsor

' What: DFCS foster children gift wish list program

' Where: Gwinnett DFCS, 446 W. Crogan St., Lawrenceville, clothing, toy and monetary donations can be made here; call 678-518-5758 to become a sponsor

' When: Now until Christmas