Jakelle's Christmas Box: Valley organization hands out free presents to foster kids

- It all happens in this room at the Mesa Church of the Nazarene.

Toys, books, crafts, clothes and new, free presents meant for children in foster care will be there along with the parents, like Shawna Meek, who take care of them.

"We are just helping our daughter celebrate her first Christmas with us," she said.

After she and her family started fostering a 5-year-old girl in May, three weeks ago, Shawna was able to make it official.

"She's been in care since she was 2-and-a-half, so that's enough," she said. "It's time for her to land somewhere, so I'm glad we found each other."

She says she's also glad she found an organization like Helen's Hope Chest that puts together this Jakelle's Christmas Box event, which started Monday and goes through Saturday and serves about 500 foster children a day.

"A lot of the time are families that otherwise may not have been able to afford a lot for Christmas and were able to give them a gift, a book, stocking stuffers and a stuffed animal, so those kids have a couple of things to really enjoy on Christmas," said Katie Pompay, executive director of Helen's Hope Chest.

So today, Shawna is taking home a big bag filled with fun and meaningful presents.

"And this little baby doll I got for her," she said. "She came with a baby doll, which she named baby Macy, which was after the little girl that was in the home with her previously. So I thought baby Macy would want a little friend."

It's all part of creating heartwarming memories with her new forever family.

"Just to know that people are out there caring about these kiddos more than anything," Shawna said. "She won't know that, she's only 5, so we probably won't share all that right now, but eventually I'm keeping a little journal for her so we can tell her about all of the people who cared about her along the way."

The organization is hoping to get more gift donations for elementary-age children and teens.

Online: mesaunitedway.org/helenshope/jakelles-christmas-box

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