Press releases are posted on Independent.com as a free commnity service.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CA – With the uncertainty that a difficult economy can bring, CASA of Santa Barbara County was not sure if they were going to be able to meet the increased need this year with their annual “Christmas Wishes” gift drive. Our community, however, had different ideas, and despite an increase of 21% in children who hoped to have their wishes filled, CASA had the joy of experiencing record-breaking donations made this year with 723 total gifts donated.
An additional $7,500 in cash and gift card donations also supported the effort, with a special fundraising effort by our “Bikes for Christmas” team including former CASA volunteer Leigha Peralta – Real Estate, Lompoc Grocery Outlet, and UA Local 114. Together they got creative to raise the funds to provide bicycles for 47 children and youth. The bikes were built by the UA Local 114 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, led by Mike Lopez, and then held on display by Toyota of Santa Maria until they were given to the kids. “Without Toyota of Santa Maria, I am not sure what we would have done” Kim Colby Davis, Executive Director of CASA of Santa Barbara County said. “We figured we had to make it happen somehow because when a child wants a bike, we want to see that happen – fresh air, sunshine, activity – all great for the kids. But we don’t have the kind of space that it would take to coordinate almost 50 bikes! Toyota of Santa Maria is such a great partner with us, and kindly lent us space on their showroom floor!” David LeRoy, General Manager of Toyota of Santa Maria shared “We absolutely love hosting the CASA Kids Christmas. It is an honor and a privilege to serve these kids in any way that we can. We display all of the bikes that were donated to the kids the entire month of December. Our customers love looking at all of the bikes lined up in our showroom with bows and tags for the CASA kids. I think it helps remind all of us that there are those in our community who need a tremendous amount of support all year long, not just at Christmas. We sincerely appreciate CASA, the advocates, donors, and volunteers. They all do incredible work in our community.”
According to CASA Director Ms. Davis, the annual “Christmas Wishes” gift collection has been a project for 15 years but has never had a year with so many children in need.
“The response from our community has been amazing, and just like CASA, our Wish Grantors covered the entire map of the County,” Ms. Davis said. “When ‘Christmas Wishes’ started, we collected close to 100 gifts. Today, we are happy to announce that all 723 children on our list had their Christmas Wish filled this year, and that would not happen without the partnerships we have built and the donors who join us to do this every year.”
By working in collaboration with Child Welfare Services and many partner agencies, CASA has been able to fill the “Christmas Wishes” of every child in the court’s care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and expanded the gift drive this year to include children in need identified by partner agency Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, which included children who are in foster care in this county, but from another county, and children who are homeless or in high need of support. Edwin Weaver, Executive Director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley said “During this season it is so important to remember our most vulnerable children. CASA was able to make so many children experience Christmas Joy! When I dropped off some gifts for one of our families, one momma to several kids said “Thank you for making this possible – my kids are going to be so happy! God bless the people at CASA, we are so grateful that our kids are getting Christmas presents this year!”
According to Ms. Davis “Our annual gift drive is a bit different than most toy drives because we serve children from newborn to age 20. The variety of ages means that their wishes and needs are widely different, and a toy drive would not meet the needs of our tiniest and our older youth.”
Collecting the “wishes” of more than 700 kids is an effort on its own, which is only possible thanks to more than 250 CASA volunteers. In the case of the approximately 100 children on CASA’s waiting list, their county social worker made sure to learn each child’s wishes. We are so incredibly grateful and thankful for our collaboration with CASA of Santa Barbara County in another successful year of the “Christmas Wishes” gift drive, said Amy Krueger, Deputy Director, Adult and Children’s Services.
“This year more than ever, we want to make sure every child is matched with a gift that helps them feel loved, valued, and supported. This accomplishment would not be possible without the tremendous enthusiasm and dedication of CASA, as well as the extraordinary generosity of the volunteers and Donors who made it all possible.”
CASA of Santa Barbara County collected the “wishes” and then coordinated with the many service groups, business offices, companies, schools, and individuals looking for a positive way to give back to children right here in our community.
“Despite an economy that has seen its challenges, we had to try to make sure that children experienced the joy of a wish filled at Christmas,” Ms. Davis said. “Our donors are just amazing! I can’t even express how touched we are by the thoughtfulness of each gift. It’s inspiring to see how the community understands how important it is to give each child something they need or especially wish for at Christmas”.
CASA would like to thank every donor who contributed to the success of the gift drive this year. In addition to many individual donors and groups of friends or families, the following organizations rallied their members and employees to take part in the annual “Christmas Wishes” drive. Groups and organizations that participated include Atlas Copco Santa Maria, Bonipak, Child Support Services of Santa Barbara County, DenMat, Fidelity Title Santa Barbara, Gamestop, Guild Mortgage Company, Laguna Blanca School, Kiwanis of Santa Maria – Noontime, “Martha’s Angels” at the Probation Department, Mission Hope Cancer Center, Montecito Bank & Trust, Mountain View Elementary School, Ontraport, Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Tribal Elders, Sunburst Community, Titan Frozen Foods, Toyota of Lompoc, Toyota Of Santa Maria, UA Local 114, multiple units at Vandenberg Space Force Bace, Vineyard Church, WAV Group, and Your People Professionals. Many more individuals reached out and donated gifts or financial contributions that made the project so successful.
CASA of Santa Barbara County is deeply grateful to everyone for helping to achieve a record-breaking year, with 723 wishes filled.
CASA of Santa Barbara County is a top volunteer agency with more than 250 local volunteers serving approximately 500 children each year. The Mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Santa Barbara County is to assure a safe, permanent, nurturing home for all abused and/or neglected children by providing a highly trained volunteer to advocate for them in the court system. Volunteers are urgently needed in Santa Maria right now and information on how to volunteer or support the CASA mission is available on our website at www.sbcasa.org