February 24, 2024

Students at Franklin Technology Center and Joplin High School have launched an effort to help area children in foster care have an unforgettable Christmas and another to assist their peers with attire for the winter formal event.

The seventh annual Christmas of Hope campaign at Franklin Technology Center gives students a chance to help hundreds of area foster care children with gifts this holiday season. The fundraiser, which first started at Franklin Tech, has grown to include the entire Joplin School District.

“It’s expanded districtwide, and now our food service personnel, bus drivers, building and grounds staff are involved,” said Lorin Curtis, construction technology instructor at Franklin Technology Center. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to kids, and that’s what I like about it.”

Christmas of Hope is managed by Fostering Hope, a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves children in foster care in Southwest Missouri. Each year, the organization partners with Zimmer Radio’s News Talk KZRG and the community to host the event.

Fostering Hope estimates that there are nearly 600 children in foster care in the local community and surrounding area. The goal with the fundraiser is to raise $50 per child to spend on Christmas gifts.

The Christmas of Hope program is offered to area foster families, as well as a portion of children whose families are served by the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Families that would like to participate in Christmas of Hope fill out a wish list for each child with clothing needs, favorite toys and interests.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to purchase Christmas gifts from each of the children’s wish lists. The Christmas of Hope team at Franklin Tech hopes to raise $5,000 or more this year.

FTC students with the most raised by Friday will be invited to shop for the Christmas gifts.

“It’s kids helping kids,” Curtis said. “You don’t know who’s in foster care. The top class gets to go shopping with me on a school day at the 15th Street Walmart. The kid actually makes the list, and the foster parent prioritizes what the kids need.”

Curtis said he may oversee the fundraiser, but the students are the ones who help manage it. From planning to creating flyers to put around school, the Franklin Tech students go all out for the event, he added.

“In the hallways, you’ll see flyers, and my kids made all of those,” Curtis said. “It works great, and they’re totally involved. They love it.”

For every $50, donors will receive a wooden Christmas tree ornament made by juniors and seniors in Curtis’ construction technology class. One side of the ornament says “Christmas of Hope 2022,” and the other side has a Christmas wreath. The students cut out, smoothed and painted 600 ornaments.

“I have nine juniors and eight seniors this year,” Curtis said. “We’ve been working on this project for a couple of weeks.”

Kaleb Napier, a 16-year-old junior at Franklin Technology Center, said he has young relatives who have been in foster care.

“I hope the kids know that they’re not alone, and they’ll be taken care of,” he said. “We care for them.”

Dress drive

JHS student council members also have launched a fundraiser to collect gently used or new formal wear to ensure that all students have the opportunity to attend the winter formal Saturday, Dec. 3.

The dress drive encourages students to donate suits, dresses, accessories and shoes until Tuesday. Any Joplin High School student in need of formalwear will be able to “shop” for free on Nov. 29.

Ami Riechman-Bennett, 18 and student body president, said the drive is a way to let students know there’s more than one way to get dressed up.

“The last thing we want is for the winter formal to be financially stressful,” she said in a statement. “Formalwear can get expensive fast, and we understand that not every student has the means to dress up. We plan to make the event as accessible as possible so that every student can feel ready and excited to join us. No one should have to miss out on this event due to finances.”

Wyatt Hensley, 17 and senior class president, said this is the first year of the dress drive, and they’ve collected nine items since kicking off the fundraiser earlier this month.

“The idea was brought to us by one of our fellow officers, and they talked about having a dress drive for people who may not be able to afford some of those higher costing dresses,” Hensley said. “I thought it was a great idea, and a lot of our other officers really stepped up to get this going. I think it’s a really great opportunity for us.”

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