The Examiner

Local Organization Remembers Foster Kids at Christmastime

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Volunteers from Foster Kids Unite, including its founder Tanya Cooper, kneeling in front, pack holiday gift boxes for youngsters last Saturday.
Volunteers from Foster Kids Unite, including its founder Tanya Cooper, kneeling in front, pack holiday gift boxes for youngsters last Saturday.

Tanya Cooper knows better than anyone the challenges that foster kids face not only while growing up but when they’re ready to age out of the system.

That’s why Cooper and volunteers from Foster Kids Unite, the nonprofit organization she founded to help foster children as they enter adulthood, are committed to making sure they have the best possible chance in life through the initiatives and fundraisers they undertake.

Last Saturday at Bethel Baptist Church in Mount Kisco, close to a dozen volunteers were packing holiday gift boxes for about 80 young adults that the organization continues to stay in contact with even though they are no longer in the system.

Many of the boxes this year are going to a girls’ transitional home in Wingdale, Dutchess County. They are expected to arrive a week or two before Christmas.

“A lot of these kids are also in school and trying to live their life without parents, which is hard, and some parents are not together,” Cooper said. “We figure to give gift boxes away just to relieve a little bit of pressure while they’re in school because there are so many pressures going on right now.”

Included in the gift boxes are snacks, nonperishable food, toiletries, socks, a gift card and other basic needs. It may not be fancy merchandise that would make for a great visual for a Christmas commercial, but the effort is greatly appreciated and the items come in handy, said Judy Fazzinga, a Foster Kids Unite board member.

“It’s like an old-school holiday,” Fazzinga said. “You’re not looking for computers or other expensive things. These are the simple things that put on smile on people’s faces and it’s a feeling you can’t explain. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”

Another board member, Iris Carvalho, agreed that their efforts mean a lot to those who receive the boxes.

“Sometimes it’s the small things that matter that people overlook,” she said. “It’s never too small.”

Cooper, who was born in Brooklyn and was adopted at five years old along with one of her brothers by a Bedford Hills family, said young adults receiving a Starbucks gift card, for example, when money is tight is can make a world of difference.

It also shows that someone is thinking of the kids, said Cooper, a substance abuse counselor and a Fox Lane High School and NYU graduate. Some of them have never received a Christmas gift before, she said.

This is the third year that Cooper and Foster Kids Unite have packed holiday gift boxes and each year the effort expands. Two years ago they mustered up enough funds and volunteers to pack 10 boxes. Last year they managed to send off 30.

What makes Foster Kids Unite unique is that the organization supports the young adult when they need the help the most,

“We’re very small but we like the fact that we can track our kids,” Cooper said. “We know where they are. Not every kid will want to keep up with us and we respect that.”

Foster Kids Unite raises money mainly through donations, fundraisers, sales and auctions. Last month, for example, a comedy night was held at MTK Tavern with proceeds going to the organization.

For more information on Foster Kids Unite, visit



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