Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice national honor society, combined efforts with Utah County Department of Child and Family Services Dec. 4 for its second annual Christmas stocking exchange.
For this event, both the APS club and students in the criminal justice department put together approximately 100 stockings. Each stocking was filled with various gifts such as candy, simple toys, socks, gloves and gift cards that were purchased by students. These stockings were then given to over 50 teenage foster children that attended the event at UVU after the APS induction ceremony.
“The stocking exchange went really well,” said Jeremy Baker, APS treasurer. “We were able to donate more than enough stockings and there was a joyful atmosphere at the activity.”
All of the extra stockings that were donated were given to DCFS to give to other foster teens who were unable to attend the event.
The teens that were able to attend, spent the night going through their stockings, socializing with UVU students, and making Christmas decorations for the DCFS office.
“This event was amazing and a great way to reach out to youth in foster care,” said event coordinator and Assistant Professor Marcy Hehnly.
DCFS clinical social worker Terri Sawyer said that she thought the main benefit of this activity was that it showed these foster kids that somebody cares about them.
“Often times these children are poorly judged,” Sawyer said. “But this event gave them one night where they can be just kids, not foster kids.”
The idea for UVU students to get involved in the stocking exchange program came from Hehnly.
Hehnly was first introduced to the stocking exchange program while living in Georgia. Her friend was working for DCFS and told her about the need for Christmas gifts for teenage foster children.
“Everyone thinks of the younger children (in foster care), but many teenagers go without receiving anything for Christmas,” said Hehnly
When she moved to Utah County she decided she wanted to start a stocking exchange program and get her students involved.
“I wanted my students to realize there were true people out there in need and that they can make a difference,” Hehnly said.
According to DCFS, there are approximately 650 foster children in Utah County, 50 percent of whom are between the ages of 14 and 21.
Another benefit that Milton Gale, a lead case worker for DCSF, said that he saw in his clients was an increase in the youth wanting to go to college.
Jill Backus, a senior assistant case worker for DCSF, agreed with Gale saying that, “A lot of foster children don’t think college is a possibility. But when they get to an event like this and interact with students, they start to think they can do it. That they are smart enough.”