This group working feverishly isn’t made up of elves, but consists of volunteers and sponsors. It’s time for Cap the Gap for Foster Care’s annual Christmas Giving Program.
Each Christmas, Cap the Gap’s efforts benefit up to 150 children within the Sullivan County Department of Children’s Services (DCS) foster care system. Their goal is to supplement DCS funding to allow local foster children to develop positive self concepts and lessen the gap between them and their peers.
During the Christmas Giving Program, foster children submit confidential wish lists through DCS that might include necessary items like clothing or blankets, but also often include toys that foster families simply can’t provide. Wish lists are matched with sponsors who purchase the items.
Sponsors can be an individual, a family, Sunday school classes, social clubs, business groups, volunteer organizations or a bunch of friends.
"I just spoke to a lady who has been a Cap the Gap supporter for a number of years," said Leslie May, public relations director for the non-profit group. "She told me that she and two friends go to lunch and buy their foster children's lists together in lieu of giving each other Christmas gifts. They decided several years ago that they each had all they needed and this was more meaningful."
Sometimes business sponsors, like Bear N Friends Toy Shoppe in downtown Kingsport, donate toys for the wish lists. Other sponsors might find that a financial contribution suits them better.
"Maybe they don’t want to shop," May said. "Maybe they just aren’t comfortable buying items for a 16-year-old boy. Or they don’t have time to shop. They can just send us a monetary donation and we’ll do the shopping for them."
Many of the 17 board members on Cap the Gap have personal reasons for their involvement, according to May.
"I have three children of my own," said Tonya Ick, co-chairperson for the Christmas Project. "We like to try to make a difference in a child's life. Hearing these stories from Cap the Gap helps remind our family how truly blessed we are."
Cap the Gap uses financial donations throughout the year as well. When children are taken from meth homes and put into foster care, because of contaminated clothing, Cap the Gap immediately provides new clothing and personal hygiene products. At the beginning of each school year, the group gives foster children backpacks filled with school supplies. They give gift cards on birthdays and for graduations. They’ve even bought yearbooks and a prom dress and helped pay for church camp fees and a school trip to Washington D.C.
This year’s wish lists will be mailed out by Nov. 17. Christmas gifts should be turned in by Dec. 6 at the Providence Medical Clinic at 441 Clay Street in Kingsport. DCS will contact foster families with instructions for picking up the gifts.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to: Cap the Gap, 1225 N. Eastman Road, Suite 105, P.O. Box 283, Kingsport, TN 37664-3161. For more information about the program, call Tonya Ick, Christmas Project co-chairperson, at 423-288-7075.