By Anna Gustafson
The lagging economy has not stopped borough companies and organizations from donating presents to Forestdale, a foster care nonprofit in Forest Hills, and the group has seen a big jump in the number of toys and other goods dropped off for some 700 children, Forestdale’s executive director said.
“There are many more donations this year,” Executive Director Anstiss Agnew said last week. “We have probably gotten about 50 percent more gifts. For our families this makes a huge difference. They can’t buy presents because most of them are unemployed.”
A number of groups have given hundreds of presents from stuffed animals to bicycles to Forestdale, the largest and oldest foster care nonprofit in Queens. Forestdale provides assistance to hundreds of children in foster care and their families, as well as about 75 children whose families are in danger of having to turn their children over to the foster care system.
Organizations that have donated gifts include the St. John’s Law School Alumni of Color, Forest Hills High School Future Business Leaders Organization, West Side Tennis Club, Queens Women’s Bar Association, Old Navy, Baby Buggy and Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
The toys, electronics and other goods these groups have given were piled high in the basement of one of Forestdale’s buildings last week, and nonprofit employees and volunteers spent two days wrapping the gifts they say will make the holidays meaningful for children whose lives are often fraught with problems.
“This is an opportunity to make these kids who can feel abandoned feel loved and shows people do care about them,” said Bernice Christopher, an administrative supervisor at Forestdale.
Forestdale officials said they cannot pinpoint the exact reasons as to why they have received so many more gifts in this rough economy, but Christopher attributed it in part to “an increased awareness to those who have always had that you can all of a sudden not have because of the financial crisis.”
“It makes you want to give,” she added.
The presents will be handed out at a party hosted by Forestdale Dec. 10 and attended by hundreds of children and their birth and foster families. The nonprofit’s Father Initiative, which works with fathers whose children are in foster care, will hold their own party Dec. 12 at the Queens Museum. There will be a separate party for the teenagers involved in Forestdale’s programs at the end of December.
“The community has come out to make sure these children in need have a happy holiday,” said Scott Leach, director of the Father Initiative.
Rosemarie Ewing-James, assistant executive director in charge of the foster care adoption program, said the presents lend stability to the children’s lives.
“It’s important for them to feel they’re not different, so on Christmas morning they can say they got gifts like everyone else,” Ewing-James said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.