A multisite congregation in Ohio is looking to donate gift cards to every teenager in foster care in the state, with organizers nearing the halfway point of their goal.
One Church, which has campuses in Gahanna and Columbus, began its gift card donation drive on Nov. 7 to help the approximately 5,300 foster teenagers in Ohio, with the outreach officially set to conclude on Dec. 13.
One Church Lead Pastor Greg Ford told The Christian Post that the idea for the gift card charity drive stemmed from a meeting with Franklin County Children Services last year.
“They shared with us that typically during the holidays, many donors want to provide toys and gifts for little kids but the teens are usually left out since they're typically not interested in toys at that stage,” Ford said.
“They said if we could provide gift cards for local fast food restaurants or retail stores, that gives the teens a sense of independence. When they're out with their friends, they can have a meal and enjoy themselves.”
Gift cards can be donated in multiple ways, including being dropped off at the church during worship, mailed to its Gahanna address, or through an online donation.
As of Tuesday, according to Ford, the outreach effort had gathered around 2,500 gift cards, which are valued at $25 each and will be for retail stores and fast food restaurants.
Last year, One Church oversaw a similar gift card charity drive for foster teens, which the congregation focused exclusively on foster youth in Franklin County.
“We garnered so much community support that we were able to provide all 775 teens with three $25 gift cards. This is what spurred us to make this outreach statewide,” recalled Ford.
“This year, we connected with foster agencies across the state to determine how many foster teens were in each county — 5,300 teens statewide — so we could provide a $25 gift card to each one of them.”
Ford also told CP that he felt that this was “our opportunity to pay it forward to the next generation,” noting that “something as simple as a $25 gift card can make such a large impact on this vulnerable population.”
“So many are struggling with identity and trying to figure out what's next. These pressures compounded with the difficulty of being in the foster system can take a toll on the teens,” he stressed.
“We want these teens to feel the love and support from the community, reminding them they are special and they are loved, especially during the Christmas season.”