We are winding down the holiday season, the time of year when we each celebrate our faith with family and friends. We pause in the busyness of preparations to remember the blessings of togetherness, belonging and traditions.
Yet, there are many children in our state who have not been blessed as so many of us have with those things that we would emphatically say mean the very most to us: the gifts of family, love, security and safety. I'm talking about the many children across our state who have been abused or neglected and now live in foster care.
A year ago, I launched Kids First, an arm of the Our Children Campaign, to bring greater involvement with abused and neglected children throughout Georgia. Our goal was to encourage volunteerism within local communities to help meet the needs of foster children and those who care for them.
Each month, we were host to a different activity in a different community, guiding interested people through an event that could be repeated in years to come. We also highlighted the good work of the many unsung heroes whose dedication and determination make miracles for these children every day.
Last January, I accompanied a First Steps volunteer on her visit with a new mother and baby at Grady Hospital. Later, we gathered many faith communities together and challenged them with opportunities for involvement in the Middle Georgia area.
Foster families from across the state were welcomed to the Governor's Mansion for an evening of fun and appreciation. The CASA volunteer program was spotlighted with a visit to juvenile court in Savannah to observe a child deprivation case. Dougherty County foster children were treated to a birthday party in their honor.
From a "Season's Readings" book drive in North Georgia to benefit a local domestic violence shelter to a prom dress drive with the Foster Care Support Foundation, we have sought to involve local communities in meeting the needs of abused and neglected children who live among them. This holiday season, I joined Clark Howard of WSB radio in the Department of Human Resources' Secret Santa Program, which has been fulfilling gift wishes for children in foster care for 17 years.
During this holy season and the start of the new year, as we give thanks for the abundance that we enjoy, may we remember those most vulnerable among us, the children in foster care.
And as this season passes, may each of us be challenged to continue to care, to act and to share with those who need us most. This year, may our resolution be to make a lasting difference in the life of a child.
Mary Perdue is Georgia's first lady. First published Dec. 30, 2007.