During the past four years, our Early Learning Program at KW Habilitation has been fortunate to participate in Shari Foster’s Christmas Sponsorship Program. The 2020 holiday season proved to be the most successful to date, and the plans for 2021 are on Shari’s radar, with preparations ramping up for the early fall.
Late in the calendar year of 2017, KW Hab was approached by Shari after being referred by a community partner. We had the opportunity to meet with her, providing information on our Early Learning Program and the supports we give to licensed childcare and families throughout the region of Waterloo. Our meeting gave us the chance to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and cookies, providing details to Shari of the legislative requirements that our program fulfills within the Region of Waterloo. Our mandate is to provide supports for Special Needs Resourcing, funded by the Ministry of Education, and administered through the Region of Waterloo. Our Early Learning supports are provided by our 27 Resource Consultants, and support staff, who are Registered Early Childhood Educators. Realizing our community had families who were in need, Shari decided to grow her Christmas Sponsorship Program with KW Habilitation.
Shari did not start this program with Early Learning but took the opportunity to grow and develop it within the region at KW Hab. Starting her early career in Social Services, it was during this ten-year experience she learned of community need, before moving onto the world of financial management. Working in finance, she still craved to give back to her community. As a result, she conceived the idea of her Christmas Sponsorship Program and approached a local community service agency with the idea of supporting families in need by providing gifts and supports for the holiday season. Over more than 10 years, Shari recruited a number of individuals, and families, by sharing her story of Christmas sponsorship and allowed anyone interested to participate. It seems that this list of sponsors continues to grow and each year more families benefit from the kindness of strangers, now friends to KW Hab. They have provided supports to dozens of families, that may not have had even some of the basic needs at Christmas time. Parents and caregivers have been overwhelmed with the supports, and the stories we hear upon reflection of their Christmas celebration conjure up the delight of children when they see a holiday tree with wrapped gifts ready to be opened, and the smells of a nutritious meal cooking in their home.
Sponsors select families by providing support to their parents, caregivers, and children. Over the last few years, we have had families of up to 10 individuals that have been given gift cards for meals and other needs, wrapped presents for children, as well as holiday favours to enjoy a season of celebration. Some of our Resource Consultants have had to enlist the support of a peer in dropping gifts off to a family, as one vehicle is not always enough to carry the load.
Despite living through our current pandemic crisis, the holiday season of 2020 saw this sponsorship grow for more than just children and their families. In partnership with IG Wealth Management, where Shari is an independent Financial Consultant, an opportunity was presented to provide KW Habilitation with a $1,500.00 donation for our “Give a Gift” program. This initiative allows for the adults we support in our Inclusive Living Program, that may not be able to spend the season with family or friends, an opportunity to receive gifts at Christmas time. Many of the adults living in our inclusive homes benefited from this donation.
We look forward to the opportunity in the fall, once again, to sit down with Shari and have our cup of tea and a cookie to plan for the holiday season of 2021. We anticipate this with excitement every year but moving beyond our current pandemic state provides us with a new and stirring hope of the opportunity for us all.
We cannot thank Shari enough for all that she has done for so many at KW Habilitation, supporting children, adults, and their families. Kudos for a job well done! Shari is a great citizen in our community, and we are thankful to work with her.