Guardian ad Litem volunteers bring Christmas gifts to SWFL foster children - 96.9 WINK FM

Guardian ad Litem volunteers bring Christmas gifts to SWFL foster children


Members of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation are working hard to ensure foster children in Lee County have what they need this Christmas.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports the health, educational and social needs of nearly 1,300 foster children in Southwest Florida, has gathered more than 2,000 toys, including Barbie dolls, board games, trucks, and clothes, and transformed their office into Santa’s Workshop.

Guardian ad Litem Christmas gifts. (Credit: WINK News)

“This is providing children with Christmas presents that they can wake up to on Christmas morning, through the work of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation,” said Jessica Stanfield, executive director. “Opportunities like this… it truly takes a village, and we have one of the best.”

Thanks to many community donors, around 850 foster kids in Lee County will have extra presents under their trees this year. Stanfield says she’s thankful for the generous support from various community churches and organizations, including Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral and Heritage Palms.

“Our Guardian ad Litem volunteers come here, and they walk around the workshop to see all the offerings that we have,” Stanfield said. “They pick something or a few items that they think their child will enjoy, and then on their visit during December, they deliver it.”

Susan Merchant is one of many Guardian ad Litem volunteers who visited Santa’s Workshop to pick the perfect gifts. She’s been serving children in Southwest Florida for most of her life.

“I build relationships with my children, the foster children; I visit them regularly… play with them, read to them, and we talk… and it’s been very, very worthwhile,” Merchant said.

Merchant lost her home in Hurricane Ian, but you would never know. Her smile, laughter, and generosity shine brightly this holiday season.

“The children give me strength,” Merchant said.

Right now, Merchant represents seven foster children in Lee County. She serves as their voice in court and ensures they have what they need to succeed.

“We are there to wrap our arms around the child and that family to make sure that they have what they need so that the placement is successful,” Stanfield said.

Many foster children getting gifts this year lost everything in Hurricane Ian, which makes this an extra-special season of giving.

“While this program is always very heartwarming, getting presents into the hands of children… it’s a bit more meaningful this year, knowing that some of these toys are going to be the first one that a child plays with post-Hurricane Ian,” Stanfield said.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation had to cancel all but one of its major fundraisers due to Ian. Now, more than ever, they need community support. Stanfield says there are always opportunities to get involved and to give. You can find more information on their website.


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