Athens High School student council sophomores Cooper Batzold, left, and Emma Leonard organize items donated to the club’s annual drive, supporting Friends of Foster Kids this year.

Athens High School student council sophomores Cooper Batzold, left, and Emma Leonard organize items donated to the club’s annual drive, supporting Friends of Foster Kids this year.

Photo provided by Troy School District


Troy Athens student council supports foster kids through annual drive

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published May 7, 2021

 Athens High School student council seniors Justin Esdale, left, and James Lee share items collected for the Macomb County-based Friends of Foster Kids.

Athens High School student council seniors Justin Esdale, left, and James Lee share items collected for the Macomb County-based Friends of Foster Kids.

Photo provided by Troy School District

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TROY — Troy Athens High School student council members made another big impact for a Macomb County nonprofit that supports local foster kids. Friends of Foster Kids was the benefactor of over 800 items — hygiene products, school supplies, clothes and toys — donated through the student council’s annual donation drive.

The group of student council members, 50 who are currently involved, have lent a helping hand to the organization previously as well, helping to donate toys and to wrap presents for children during the holiday season.

“We are eternally grateful they came on board a few years back, and they keep making a difference,” Friends of Foster Kids Founder Theresa Toia said. “Right now we’re moving quickly into our graduate program, which we call Hats Off to Grads.”

The organization normally supports 80-90 graduating high school students who are in need of supplies to move from foster care to independent living. The items donated by the student council’s annual donation drive will support those graduating first; any leftover items will be handed out to children during the holidays, or as needed.

“We take care of over 1,500 foster children at Christmas as well. We put individual packages together for them, and then throughout the entire year we’re given children as they come into care and they’re removed from homes,” Toia said. “The case workers contact us for any needs they may have, because many of (the children) are removed and don’t have much more than they have on their backs.”

According to its website, Friends of Foster Kids was founded in 2008 to provide gifts to foster children during the holiday season across the tri-county region. The program has since expanded to also help foster children who have aged out, but still need assistance.

Athens student council president and senior Michael Awwad said he was glad to see the amount of support the club’s annual drive could provide to Toia’s organization.

“Especially during these times, it feels great,” he said. “The Athens community has always been a very strong one for giving back, and to see that during these times we’re still able to come together and continue to be strong to help those in need, it feels amazing.”

The drive itself couldn’t have been as successful without the community’s help, Awwad said. “It was a huge help. I believe there’s about 1,600 students (who attend) Athens, and there are only 50 student council members. We can only do so much, but opening it up to the whole community, that’s where the real majority of it came from.”

“A big thank you to the community as always,” Awwad added. “The Athens community has been very strong and compassionate. I want to thank the community for being able to continue that spirit all the way through.”

Items donated to the drive are often basic necessities that children in the foster care system do not have the luxury to possess. Toia said giving children a chance to pick out items they normally wouldn’t get brings joy to them.

“I just had one of the girls who were graduating come in and try on some formal dresses, and even a pantsuit for job interviews, and we had her walk down just the hygiene products aisle, and that was quite an experience,” she said. “She had a big smile on her face because she could locate products that she would prefer to use, but doesn’t have the money to afford herself.”

Friends of Foster Kids is currently also in need of sleepwear items and duffel bags to help foster kids carry their belongings.

“Right now, especially, we need sleepwear for the older children — sleep pants and T-shirts, or sleep pants and tank tops for the girls, usually. We put that sleepwear together with pillows and blankets. While children are required to have their own bed, they do notoriously sleep with no sheets, or they sleep in their clothes. That’s why we have such importance for those items.”

To learn more, visit friendsoffosterkids.org. You can follow the Athens Student Council on Instagram @athensstuco22 for updates.

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