More than 30 years ago, a single foster parent needed help during the holidays.
The answer to that need has grown into a regional push to grant foster children across multiple North Texas counties their Christmas wishes.
The Christmas Wish Project started in 1989 when friends, former Fort Worth council members Becky Haskin and Kay Granger, now a Congresswoman, assisted a single foster parent in need. Today, The Christmas Wish Project seeks to give a gift to every foster child in the region.
What areas does The Christmas Wish Project help?
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the local region covers Tarrant, Parker, Palo Pinto, Hood, Johnson, Erath and Somervell counties. The Christmas Wish Project is a separate, volunteer-only nonprofit, but it does rely on Tarrant County Foster Parents Association, the staff members of Child Protective Services, Our Community Our Kids and other placement agencies for confirmation and distribution of information to foster parents.
“We let the child wish for what they want,” Haskin said. “No matter if you’re in foster care or in a traditional family, kids still have a Christmas wish.”
To complete this mission, The Christmas Wish Project is seeking a donated warehouse in Fort Worth to store thousands of gifts for Tarrant County foster children.
The warehouse needs to be a minimum of 20,000 square feet because of the large number of gifts, said Haskin. There is no need for heating or air conditioning. Bathrooms are a bonus but not necessary.
“When asking for donated space, we can’t ask for much, but we don’t need much,” Haskin said.
Finding a warehouse every year can be tricky because the nonprofit aims to use a new location each holiday season.
“We try not to reach out to past warehouses for security reasons,” Haskin said. “It’s also as a courtesy since they give it to you for free.”
The warehouse is solely used to store and organize the gifts and serve as a base for pickups for foster parents. Gifts are available for pickup two weeks before Christmas, and pickup days vary by county.
The deadline for foster parents to apply for the 2022 holiday season is Nov. 22. Distribution day in Tarrant County is Dec. 11.
“Somebody knows somebody who has a warehouse we could use. We take great care of it – they won’t even know we’re there,” Haskin said. “Everyone in the community has their heart in the right place because we’re helping thousands of kids.”
How to give, get help
- If you’re interested in donating to The Christmas Wish Project, click here.
- If you own a warehouse that meets the requirements and are willing to temporarily donate the space to The Christmas Wish Project, click here.
- Foster parents may apply online to The Christmas Wish Project.
According to The Christmas Wish Project, Foster children must live within a home in the region or have an open and active Child Protective Services case from the region to qualify.
The nonprofit has grown significantly during the past 30 years, said Charlie Cripliver, Granger’s district director. At first, the group needed only small storefronts or houses to store the presents. Now, much more space is needed.
“A lot of folks in the community and foster parents know about The Christmas Wish Project now,” Cripliver said. “It’s become an incredible resource.”
In 2021, The Christmas Wish Project granted over 1,200 wishes to foster children, Haskin said. Although the nonprofit doesn’t yet have a warehouse for the 2022 holiday season, there are no plans to slow down.
The Christmas Wish Project is also supported by about 200 volunteers from the community, Cripliver said. Many foster parents also volunteer their time to sort and assemble gifts. One of the most popular gifts? Bicycles.
“There are so many volunteers that come in and help assemble the bicycles, typically 300-400 bikes are wished for every year,” Cripliver said. “We’ve had special nights where volunteers and others will come in and assemble every bicycle – it’s really something.”
The warehouse is always meticulously organized according to the families, and each foster child’s specific wish is granted.
“The Christmas Wish Project reaches a need in the community,” Cripliver said. “It’s difficult for foster parents to work and support their own children and foster children – I know Becky and Kay never imagined it getting this big, but it’s so important and they’re really proud.”
Izzy Acheson is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.