Progressive Foster Christmas Party
By Stacy Garrison
Covid has changed the face of so much of our daily lives and events, and this year’s annual Foster Christmas Party was no different. Rather than being about to celebrate our foster children and families with a sit down meal and party, a new plan had to be hatched. The workers, led by Tamara Collins, Kayla Premer, and Candace Mayberry and several of volunteers, spent months planning and pivoting to make sure these kids still had a night to remember, and I think all who were a part would say it was definitely that!
Department Social Service Children’s division workers, along with hundreds of volunteers from the Ozark, Douglas, and Wright counties, set out to bring Candy Land to life with a multi-location scavenger hunt. Each of the seven locations worked hours recreating one of the Candy Land locations, and at each location the families were blessed with a treat or two. Hundreds of businesses, organizations, individuals, and churches donated their time, money, and talents to see the evening succeed.
The foster families started off at Highway Church of the Nazarene,’s Cupcake Commons, where workers and Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase and his officers gave each family a cooler stuffed with a full Christmas meal and a turkey. They were then given a map, and the fun began.
From there the family drove to the Douglas County Health Department’s Ice Palace, where they received a blanket for each child and enjoyed caroling from one of the many groups that volunteered for the evening.
The Third location, Life Church’s rendition of Icecream Slopes, gave the families free happy meals and pies.
The families then found themselves at Set Free’s version of Peanut Acres, where they were given a bag of kettle corn and a stocking filled with all kinds of goodies.
They traveled then to Lollipop Woods, where the volunteers at First Southern Baptist made sure that all kids were given a giant lollipop and candy cane.
The 6th stop was at Crosspoint Church, where the family enjoyed handmade cards from Mammoth Assembly of God and hot chocolate at Chocolate Mountain.
The families then drove to the Ava Methodist Church, where they all received a large bag of cotton candy and donated snacks at Gummy Hills and stopped a minute to enjoy a short movie on the giant outdoor screen.
The journey ended at Ava Assembly of God, where they were again greeted with law enforcement and Santa himself in the Gingerbread House. While getting a quick visit with Santa, the social service workers and law enforcement blessed the families with gift bags filled with pajamas, wishlist gifts, and a tablet for every school age child.
The outpouring was one of the biggest and most humbling we have had, with thousands of dollars donated, wishlist and gifts purchased, food donated and prepared, stockings stuffed, locations decorated, time given, and love shown. These communities went above and beyond to work together to see a magical tradition and night continue despite new obstacles caused by Covid-19.