Ten for Teens 2021
Nine years ago, Frugal Living NW featured Welcome Boxes for children entering foster care as an opportunity for all of you to give back to our community.
The drive was a raving success as the community showed how much it values vulnerable children in the Portland Metro area. These boxes communicated a much needed message of value, dignity, and worth at a time of great vulnerability and uncertainty in these children’s lives.
And now we have another opportunity to serve this Christmas season. We’re back again this year with our big Ten for Teens giving campaign!
Over the last seven years, Frugal Living NW readers have donated over $90,000 in gift cards to local teens in foster care.
Your efforts had such a tremendous impact on local teens in foster care, their caseworkers, and the Oregon Department of Human Services as a whole — and we are hoping that we can pull this off again this year.
Ten for Teens: $10 gift cards for teens in foster care
One thing Every Child PDX (formerly Embrace Oregon), the organization that grew from the Welcome Box campaign that works to connect the community to serve children in foster care in Oregon, has consistently heard from child welfare workers is that teens are the most neglected groups when it comes to community holiday giving.
Our Ten for Teens campaign seeks to meet this tremendous need. This is just one response we received from DHS about what our community accomplished in past campaigns:
We were so delighted to receive the gift cards you provided for our teens in foster care! We want to give you our warmest thanks for this great resource.
Each year, we try to provide a holiday gift for every one of our kids in substitute care. We work with a number of organizations, many of whom are very generous with toys and games for our younger children. We find the most difficulty in getting appropriate gifts for our teenagers. Most donors think of cars, truck, dolls, and teddy bears; however, our teens also like to have a gift to celebrate the holiday.
[You] thought ahead to this unmet need, and we are so grateful! Gift cards are especially nice for these teens, because most of them have led lives that did not offer them many choices. Having the means to “pick out something I really like” is important to most teens, but particularly to these kids. It is a luxury that most of them have never had the opportunity to experience. You gave the gift of choice, along with the fun of the season. Thank you!
For most of us, gift cards conjure up images of the impersonal gift or the choice to buy for someone that already has everything. This couldn’t be farther than the truth for teens in foster care.
Teens in foster care rarely have their own spending money. Making their own spending choices is a simple thing many of our children take for granted but for those in foster care, it’s a luxury — whether it’s getting a drink at Starbucks or purchasing their own socks.
What if every teen in foster care in the Portland Metro are received a $10 gift card this Christmas?
But wait. There’s more.
And what if these kids received not only a gift card, but also a personalized message of love and encouragement that sadly they don’t often hear? A message like,
You are beautiful.
You are special.
You are are worth it.
You are a gift to this world.
We are asking for gift cards specifically in the amount of $10 to better the odds that all teens in the Portland Metro area will receive one. Please know that this isn’t just something that will be used as a stocking stuffer to go along with a heap of presents.
This might be the only gift these teens in the our child welfare system receive this Christmas, as many teens in care live in group homes and just don’t get the type of Christmas that most kids get.
These gifts will also go to teens currently living with their biological parents with a safety plan. Many of these parents simply do not have enough money to provide Christmas gifts for their kids, and a gift for their child from someone in the community is an incredible encouragement.
There are approximately 735 teens (ages 12-20) in foster care in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties, which means we need a whole lot of you to step up to meet this enormous need.
This is big, everyone. Really big.
735 teens means we need 735 of you to give one $10 gift card. Or 80 of you to give ten gift cards. Or 8 businesses to give 100 gift cards.
Don’t give into the pessimism that says, “I can’t make a difference.” Oh, you can.
A simple $10 can have a significant impact on a young person living in our community this Christmas.
Ready to give? Here’s what to do:
Purchase one or more $10 gift cards.
Here are some suggestions:
Restaurants: McDonald’s, Subway, Burgerville, Coldstone, Burger King, Taco Bell, Baja Fresh
Coffee: Starbucks, Dutch Bros, Black Rock
Retail Stores: Best Buy, ULTA, Bath & Body Works, Old Navy, Game Stop, Claire’s, Zumiez
Big Box Stores: Fred Meyer, Target, Walmart
Online Stores: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, XBOX, Nintendo
Places to Do Stuff: Regal or Century Theaters, Wunderland, Dave & Busters, bowling
Or anywhere else you think a teen might enjoy. The gift cards will be hand-picked for kids by their caseworkers, so your choice doesn’t have to be entirely generic. You are welcome to get creative.
Please keep in mind that often teens in foster care don’t have extra spending money, so don’t get a card from, say, Nordstrom or Pottery Barn. It probably won’t be very useful. Also transportation is difficult for some, so if you select a small business (which is awesome), make sure it’s located in the Portland Metro area so a teen in that area can easily get there.
You are welcome to have the gift cards mailed directly to Frugal Living NW if you are purchasing them online to save time and postage. (Target.com doesn’t mail gift cards to P.O. boxes, so email me for a residential address — email@example.com.) I will assume that any gift cards that come to my business’s mailbox are for this project and not an anonymous gift to me.
Please make sure you are sending an actual plastic gift card and not an emailed printable form with a barcode. A piece of paper is lame. Plastic is cool.
Write a personal message (optional).
The purpose of this message is to let your teen know that there is a real person, family, or group behind the gift card.
Let your teen know he is loved and special. Let her know your family is thinking of her this Christmas. It’s probably best to do this in a note or greeting card (a Christmas card would be perfect). Feel free to have your kids or grandkids draw a picture to go along with your card.
No religious messages, such as “God loves you” or “God has a plan for your life” or “We’re praying for you,” please. It’s fine to use greetings that include “Christmas.”
Stick the gift card inside the greeting card/note and put it in an UNSEALED, UNMARKED envelope. If you seal it, we will have to open it and make your envelope look all trashy, so just don’t seal it.
This step is optional. You are absolutely welcome to send gift cards without messages. We have a team of folks who are writing cards on your behalf this year.
Mail your gift card(s) and message(s) by December 14, 2021.
Now put your envelope in a larger one and mail it off! We (Frugal Living NW) will collect the gift cards and deliver them to the folks at Every Child PDX, who will then distribute them to the caseworkers at the DHS offices in the Portland Metro area. Please mail your gifts to:
Frugal Living NW
PO Box 125
Gresham, OR 97030
This deadline is so we can get as many cards to DHS offices in time for their holiday parties. Cards received after the date will still be used by Every Child PDX to give to teens in foster care in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. Late gifts are more than welcome!
If you live outside the Portland Metro area.
This campaign is specially for the nine Oregon DHS offices in the Portland Metro area (Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington counties). If you live outside these counties and have a burden to give to the teens served in your community, please fill out the contact form at Every Child and write GIFT CARD in the comment area. Someone from the Every Child team will personally connect you with someone from your local office so your gift gets to the correct people.
All the extra details.
If you a purchasing a large number of gift cards (10 or more) and would like a receipt for tax purposes, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope in your package and we will provide one to the name on the envelope. Your receipt will come in time to complete your 2021 taxes (January 31, 2022).
If you would like confirmation that your package was received, please include a note with your email address or text number CLEARLY PRINTED on it or pay for confirmation from USPS. Please understand that I am personally managing this campaign and receive hundreds of packages over the course of a couple of weeks, so my reply may not come the day your package is received. Every Child PDX and I are not responsible for packages not received or mis-delivered by the postal system.
Please DO NOT hand deliver or mail your gifts directly to a DHS office. We (Frugal Living NW and Every Child PDX) have a system set up to distribute these gifts in a way that doesn’t create extra work and confusion for the staff.
If you own a small business, are in a position in a larger business to make donation decisions, or an individual who would like to make a large donation to this project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get you a tax receipt for your gift.
If you represent a group that would like to make Ten for Teens your giving campaign this Christmas season, please email me so I can get you any information you need to make this a success!
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