Be a Se­cret Santa for Ca­toosa foster chil­dren

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - By Ta­mara Wolk

Af­ter 22 years of work­ing for Shaw In­dus­tries, Dar­ren Weeks woke up one morn­ing re­al­iz­ing he wanted to do some­thing else with his life – some­thing that mat­tered more.

“A hun­dred years from now,” says Weeks, “no one is go­ing to re­mem­ber the car­pet you had in your liv­ing room. But if you do some­thing to help oth­ers, that can have a rip­ple ef­fect and make a dif­fer­ence in your com­mu­nity, your state, your coun­try.”

So Weeks en­rolled in col­lege and started at­tend­ing classes with peo­ple half his age. “I thought I’d like to work with vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.”

One thing Weeks didn’t see him­self do­ing was work­ing in the foster care sys­tem, but an in­tern­ship in Gor­don County changed his mind. “I fell in love with it. I can’t imag­ine do­ing any­thing else now.”

Weeks has been the re­source devel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor for Ca­toosa County Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vice’s foster care pro­gram only since June 1. This will be his first year help­ing out with their Se­cret Santa pro­gram.

“Wendy Cle­ment is our of­fi­cial Se­cret Santa co­or­di­na­tor,” says Weeks. “She re­cently took an­other job, out­side DFCS, but on the con­di­tion she could still man­age the Se­cret Santa pro­gram. I’ll be help­ing her in ev­ery way I can.”

“The work I do with Ca­toosa DFCS,” says Weeks, “is phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing, but a joy and peace comes with know­ing you’ve done every­thing you can to help kids have a bet­ter life.” You can help, too. Here’s how. There are over 150 Ca­toosa County chil­dren in foster care. “We have won­der­ful foster par­ents,” says Weeks. “They re­ally care about the chil­dren. They sac­ri­fice a lot.”

Money is of­ten tight for foster fam­i­lies, which is why the Se­cret Santa pro­gram is so im­por­tant. It’s a way for the com­mu­nity to help chil­dren who are strug­gling in ways most kids don’t have to worry about.

If you’d like to buy gifts for one or more chil­dren, you can con­tact Weeks and he’ll make sure you get the chil­dren’s wish lists.

If you or your busi­ness would like to do­nate money or gifts, Weeks can help you with that.

“We need toys, big and small,” says Weeks. “Cloth­ing is great, too. Chil­dren need socks, un­der­clothes and coats – coats are a big thing.”

Gifts should be new and not gift-wrapped. All help is wel­come. Gifts and do­na­tions are needed by Dec. 1 to make sure there’s time to sort every­thing and get it to chil­dren who are in foster homes around the state. As with the Walker County foster care sys­tem, chil­dren of­ten end up hav­ing to be placed far from home be­cause there aren’t enough foster homes in the county.

“We try to make sure ev­ery child gets some things they re­ally want,” says Weeks. “This is a chance to help make them feel spe­cial.”

Mr. Weeks can be con­tacted at 423-309-3619 or dar­

Dar­ren Weeks (shown with wife Keri) is the new re­source de­vel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor for Ca­toosa County Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices fos­ter care sys­tem. (Con­trib­uted photo)

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