Ten for Teens 2016
Four 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 opportunity!
Over the last three years, Frugal Living NW readers have donated over $33,000 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 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 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 you all have 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!
You can read more responses from caseworkers from past Ten for Teens giving campaigns here.
What if every teen in foster care in the Portland Metro are received a $10 gift card this Christmas?
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.
But wait. There’s more.
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.
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 such as encouragement.
This is big, everyone. Really big. There are approximately 868 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.
868 teens means we need 868 of you to give one $10 gift card. Or 87 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 suggested establishments:
- Dutch Bros.
- Best Buy
- Bath & Body Works
- Fred Meyer
- Old Navy
- Coldstone Creamery
- Game Stop
- Movie Theater
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 most 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.) 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.
Mail your gift card(s) and message(s) by December 12, 2016.
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 Embrace Oregon, 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 431
Troutdale, OR 97060
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 2016 taxes (January 31, 2017).
Please DO NOT hand deliver or mail your gifts directly to a DHS office. We (Frugal Living NW and Embrace Oregon) 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.
Alright. Who’s in?
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.
Help! Where can I find $10 gift cards? I was out doing errands today and went to Target, Albertsons, and Safeway and all I could find were cards for $15 or more.
Karen C says
If you go to Fred Meyer you can buy a blank gift card and apply any amount you want. Other stores will do this for you.
Also, last year Freddys had a coupon deal for a 3 pack of $10 iTunes gift cards. I needed one for a neighbor teen and used the other two for “Ten For Teens”. Hope this helps.
OK. It’s been a while since I bought gift cards and I was hoping to do what I did in the past and buy a variety of them all at one store. I guess I will just have to go to the individual stores and purchase what I want. Thank you.
I got a card from using the target coupon last week (free 10 gift card when you spend 50 on food), that I am going to use for this. They might have a offer that sounds good. Either now or black Friday.
Angela Davis says
You can purchase packs of $10 cards at the grocery store, but the selection is limited. If it makes your life easier, you can just buy a bunch of the same store. There are over 1200 kids, so we’ll definitely find a good home for them!
Rachel Brown says
If you have any kids in school or know any, most schools have a scrip program where you can buy $10.00 gift cards to a variety of stores/restaurants. This is a fundraiser for the school and so you are giving twice!
Angela Davis says
So smart, Rachel! Thanks for the idea!
Karen C says
I participated last year and plan to do so again this year. But I wouldn’t have known that it was happening again this year if I wasn’t linked to this blog thread. Did I miss an article in the newsletter for 2014?
Anyway, I’m glad I was reminded and I’m in:)
Angela Davis says
We’re using the same post as last year — we just launched tonight!
I would like to organize this for our church in Stayon- how would I get the gift cards to our area?
Angela Davis says
Just send the cards into us and we’ll distribute them to the Marion County offices. We have a contact all ready to go!
Great – Thanks!
Will you be doing this again this year.
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
I am sooo happy!!!
Karen Kuhn says
I just saw this on line today. It’s December 15th. Will you accept cards after the cut off date?
Angela Davis says
Absolutely! I live very close to the Multnomah County coordinator and can drop off late-arriving cards.
Wondering…. What about movie tickets to like Regal. But not the gift card but the movie passes like from Costco. For cinetopia or Regal? They are so much cheaper and a better value for the teen to go to the movies. Maybe a movie pass and a gift card for treats?
Angela Davis says
Meghann Cole says
Nevermind! I got in touch with someone, thanks!
Meghann Cole says
Is there a physical address I can take the gift cards to? I’m a little apprehensive sending gift cards blindly to a PO Box. (We have a large group donating ! 🙂
Courtney Goode says
I recently got the church I work at and the one I go to set up making Welcome Boxes. After we sent in our boxes I came across this and am now asking for gift cards. I’ll be mailing them to you for Marion County next week. As a former foster parent, I know this will be a huge blessing. Thanks so much!
Some GREAT gals says
We sent our 20 cards yesterday! So honored to give a little for these young men and women. ~ Thanks for setting this up on their behalf.
When do you need these by? I would like to contribute but won’t be able to until next week.
Angela Davis says
Hey, Trish! I’ve extended the due date until December 13.
Thanks so much for the info – i posted it yesterday on my FB page & sending in 6 cards today! What a wonderful way to tell these teens they MATTER. I will be sending mine in a Christmas card with a note to that effect. A child will not be offended to receive a gift & a greeting whether it is “Happy Hannukah”, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Ramadan”. Shalom. 🙂
Mailing off 10 cards from my family in Everett, WA today! Thanks for the opportunity.
I just saw this (12/2)! Mailing out cards tomorrow from Montana! I hope they make it in time 🙁 Also, how do I contact Welcome Boxes? Thanks!
Sending 3 cards to you in the mail tomorrow.
Thank you for coordinating this wonderful idea!
This is an awesome program. My Husband and I are sending 10 and my 3 teenagers are sen ding a total of 5. They will mail out today 12/2 or tomorrow 12/3. It would be so amazing if all the teens get a card.
I am talking to my older Girl Scouts now to see if the want to participate…I can’t see them saying no since they are all teens and want to help teens….we will get a hold of you.
How do I get a receipt for businesses? Please let me know. Thanks!
Hey Lori! Can you email me? We’ll get you hooked up with a receipt!
Angela, Do you have a count for Marion County yet? Please respond!
Not yet :).
Jeri Hastings says
Hi, I live in Gresham too. I posted it on my facebook page so hopefully we’ll get some responses. We’ll be sending some from our household.
Let me know if we get close and I’ll help some more.
Sandra: How old is your kiddo? I can tell how to frame a conversation with a local retailer. You may have to make more than one call, but right now (before thanksgiving), the requests are not as prevalent so when you ask, often the managers can ask a DM and get more than you ask for. Often, just explaining the situation, asking for a small discount for things that are not an xbox, stores are very generous. I asked for a ‘heads up’ on sales on underpants and socks, and my awesome Target store gave me a huge extra discount on what I was buying for foster kids. Thanks for being a foster parent. Foster parenting is the hardest job you will ever love. (I know that is the peace corps tag line, but foster parenting is way harder and you love it more 🙂 )
I’m a foster parent. How could my foster child get a gift card?
Angela Davis says
Sandra: Caseworkers will be responsible for distributing cards.
Wonderful idea! Do you know if there is anything like this for Lane County kids?
Have you had time yet to come up with a total of the number of teens in foster homes in Marion County? You mentioned you were going to be doing this!
Karen C says
I just returned from the post office. I mailed the 3 cards that I promised plus 2 more from my daughter Erin. They said you should have them tomorrow.
We chose Freddy’s gift cards because there is so much there to choose from and many locations to shop at.
Thanks again for the opportunity. It was a great feeling to hand that big envelope over at the post office:)
heidi roulston says
Also dont forget if you have one of those credit cards that earns you points or rewards, you can redeem them for these types of gift cards as well. A good way to use up your reward points!!!
Great Idea, My Daughter does Foster Care and so I posted this to her Facebook Page. Thank you FLNW and everyone.
Hi there. My son has taken this on as his leadership project for martial arts. If anyone on the westside would like to drop off a card in his drop box it is located at Aim High Academy of Martial Arts on Cornell & Bethany Road. His goal is to collect 100 cards! The box will be up from Monday Nov. 18th – Tues Dec. 3rd.
( and yes FLNW – I will email you about meeting up to get these to you!)
This is so awesome! Beyond excited that he chose to serve others for his project. What a stud.
I just sent one in. I did get the Starbucks groupon and was able to exchange it for a plastic giftcard at a Starbucks store. Thanks for organizing this! We did the welcome box last year and am happy that you’ve given a chance for us to give a small amount that will make a difference.
Karen C says
FYI Frugallivingnw… Although your website says I’m subscribed to this post line, I’m not recieving any emails of new posts. I’ve been following it manually. Really busy and that’s been difficult. Could be my computer or internet, I’ve had some glitches lately.
Anyway, my original pledge was for 3 gift cards and my daughter wanted to add to that. (don’t know how many). We talked about this today and she gets paid tomorrow and will be ready. We plan to get our package into the mail to you on Monday, because we are crazy busy right now and also because you need to know how many you can count on as soon as possible. I will post when we mail.
I was really hoping to see a snowball effect and see more people pledging, but there has been a lot of discussion on what is “allowed” or “appropriate”. I really do thank everyone that has posted “deals” on purchasing those gift cards! The bottom line for me is that this is a fantastically great idea and I’m very happy to participate!
Thanks Karen! I’m hoping that the first wave of gifts will get people even more excited to participate! And I realize that anything that has to do with the state is going to bring up questions, so I’m really okay with it.
And, I have no idea why the comment thing isn’t working. The mouse in the wheel must be snoozing :).
I had this same issue a few months ago and I finally switched what email address I listed on my comments. I started receiving the email comment updates immediately after changing it. I just thought it was a weird glitch with hotmail.
When I first joined this website in Jan 2012, I was getting 30-40 emails a day (yahoo)–every time someone posted a new comment on something I’d left a comment on. That got kind of annoying, and suddenly the emails stopped. I think it had something to do with flnw’s revamped website; don’t know or care. Since then, I just go onto the site daily and follow the comment trails that I choose to. Easier 4 me than trying to read and/or delete all those pesky emails.
Karen C says
Thanks Brenda and Howard!
This doesn’t affect my decision to give a gift, which of course I will, but I wonder if these are 930 kids who live with foster families, or kids who are unplaced, or a combination? Just curious. I would think that kids living with foster parents would receive something other than our donated cards. Your appeal says this likely will be the only gift these kids receive. I did the Welcome Box deal last year, and this is much easier!
The welcome boxes are given out whenever a child is placed in a new home throughout the year, not as a Christmas gift. I imagine that many kids in foster families do receive other gifts but there are plenty in treatment centers or group homes that usually only receive gifts from their social worker. I think the gift card idea is perfect. It’s easy for people to donate and extra special to kids that probably don’t get to buy whatever they want very often.
Howard: There are 930 total teens in foster care in the tri-county area. Brenda is correct that many teens live in group homes and some do receive gifts from their foster families. Sadly, some don’t.
he thing is a lot of kids come into care on any given day. Some are little kids, some are babies and some are teens. Teens are more like to be placed in group homes, as often there are alot of behavioral issues with them and there are not alot of single family foster parents equipped to handle them. Little kiddos often have a good chance of being adopted by their foster families. Older kids, who have been tossed about their entire life, are far less likely to be adopted. But they are all kids. They need love, attention, and yes-they need stuff. Foster families are barely compensated for the bare minimum caring for a kid (at least in WA). (Payment for a teen barely covers food) much less clothes and the other teen ‘wants and needs’. Not to mention that foster parents have to spend hours on the road transporting kids for visits with bio families, etc. Give to your family first. But don’t forget those without forever families. Small things are big things when you have nothing. Hugs to all
Is there a similar program for foster kids in Washington County?
Heather: This project is for teens in the tri-county area, which includes Washington county.
Awesome idea! Definitely share discount gift card deals as they come up . I know every new and then my safe way j4u will have a discount on some types like iTunes, also check your personalized deals as they show up there too.
N France says
Count me out! I will be giving my donations to the Salvation Army Bell
Ringers and other like organizations whom make no objections to sharing positive ” Christian Messages” to those they serve in time of need.
I feel the same way, however maybe an explanation why no “religious” phrases are allowed would help us understand. Is that a DHS request? The rule offended me just a bit.
Kate from Frugal Living NW says
It is a DHS request. The same applies to the Welcome Boxes.
Thank you Kate.
The rule makes perfect sense. Not every foster child in Oregon is Christian, I’m pretty sure. I’m sending my gift card in with a plain note card with a “You are loved” message. A Christmas card is inoffensive, but it’s safer to send a holiday-type card or a note card with a personal greeting.
Lori W. says
DHS is state/fed funded. Seperation of church and state. They cannot get into a religous debate with folks. Did you not go to the Embrace Oregon website? It’s pretty clear it came out of a belief that this was God’s calling to them. They are being good Christians helping these kids, not by being offended if the child doesn’t believe. Exactly as the good Samaritan did. I would hope you got back “in” or helped via your church as the Embrace website has opportunities that way.
Thank you Lori W. I was just curious where the requirement came from. I still plan on giving. I have helped teens at Youth Guidance Association at Christmas in the past, which is state funded, and don’t recall being told not to mention God in my card to the teen. I hope I didn’t break any rules then 🙂 Thanks for your response.
I’ll be participating because it’s an awesome thing to do – and I’ll just give extra for all those who can’t handle not shouting out their “Christian messages.” It’s about kids people, not about us.
I said I was still going to give. I will help others whether I can mention God or not. I was just asking a question.
This is a request made from DHS. Embrace Oregon seeks to serve DHS with “no strings attached.” Everyone is welcome to pray for their teen. God can have an impact on his/her life without a religious message.
By the way, I’m a big fan of the Salvation Army, etc. Please do give generously to them and anyone seeking to serve the community in the name of Jesus.
Thank you Angela. That is what I suspected. I will be buying my cards soon!
Think about picking up a gift card at ABCGiftCards.com at a discount. I usually receive them a week after purchasing.
Regal Entertainment sells gift cards too. Movies!!!
Fantastic idea! I’ll add this to the list.
Great idea! Is there a way you can keep us updated on the gift card count coming in? Would be fun to see how this grows and if we all can meet the goal together!
*Most of the gift cards like at Safeway start at a minimum of $15, but you want them to be $10 right?
Yes, we’d prefer cards to be $10, but we’ll take anything :). I will definitely keep you updated over the next couple of weeks!
Great idea! Can’t wait to send in ours. I love the idea that Karen C had, 3 healthy kids, 3 cards. I have 3 kids and another waiting to be adopted so you will get 4 from our family.
Lori W says
I know last year albertsons did all their great gift card deals week before/ of Black Friday because I scored at kohls. Any idea if its returning this month so I can wait for that?
Any idea how to connect in Deschutes County?
Jamie Leigh Martin says
I’m in, but.. I only have an e-giftcards! Help!
Jamie, is there a way to use your e-gift card to buy a plastic one? I was going to try to do that with the $5 for $10 Groupon for Starbucks….get the e-card and then bring it into a Starbucks and purchase a $10 gift card….just a thought!
Liz Martin says
Hi, My husband and I are small business owners and I’d like to donate 10 gift cards (or $100) I’m happy to have our kiddos decorate the cards. Our oldest is 5 and I love the idea of having her be part of giving to others that aren’t as fortunate. Please email me with details for a tax form.
Thank you so much and what a great idea!!!
Tracey Monette says
I will definitely be getting something out to you and just shared this on my facebook for local friends to see.
Does anyone know of anything similar in Washington?
Not sure where you are located in Washington but Northwest Children’s Outreach would love gift card donations. They have a drop off location in Vancouver and Belfair (and 6 locations in Oregon). They work directly with caseworkers also. I double checked with them about gift card donations and they would love to be able to hand them out to teens.
You can call for more info (360) 576-8024 (this is a message number and someone will return your call in a few days) or you can visit their website to find out their drop off location addresses or donate online.
http : // northwestchildrensoutreach . org (remove spaces)
Karen C says
I am blessed to have raised 3 happy, healthy children to adults, so you can count me in for 3 gift cards. My daughter just came home from work and says she wants to participate too. What a great giving idea this is?
Anyone know of gift card deals around right now? That would help stretch the budget.
I know that Burgerville has Buy $25, Get $5, so that would take care of 3 kids. I’ll be sure to post other deals I find!
Karen C says
Thanks Angela! Since I already see great ideas coming from the readers I’m going to wait a couple of days to buy. This is fun!
I got a catalina printout that talked about earning four times the fuel rewards when buying giftcards at Fred Meyer. I think it starts on Black Friday.
Thanks -great tip JM.
Also really like that it is for teens this year-am sure they are more neglected than the younger kids 🙂
Karen C says
Yeah! Love those fuel rewards. Thanks Jim!
I believe Safeway also gives 4X fuel points for gift cards. Their website might elaborate on that.
I am totally in! Also just “shared” on Facebook and asked others to “share” as well. Let’s get the message out there! Such a great idea. Thanks!!!
Awesome idea!! I have a Girl Scout Troop that did Foster Boxes last year and we were going to do a giving tree thing this year, but it’s so hard to have them all shop on their own. I’ll check with my Troop and see if they want to do this instead. What a wonderful thing to do for kids that are so often forgotten!!
Hally: That would be so awesome! Thank you!
Thank you for doing this. I’ve worked a lot with these kids and it will mean a lot.
I love this, and I’m in! I’ll be telling everyone I know about this too. These kids are important and they matter. What a great way to let them know they are not forgotten.
Wonderful idea that I know will generate a great response. I was looking forward to doing the Welcome Box thing again this year. I’m sure some of us have several of those $5 Target gift cards laying around that we can pair up and send in. I know I do.