These Grandmas are truly Angels for children in foster care!
Mary was moved into a group home just before her 13th birthday. Think for a moment of the stress this youngster experienced – being separated from the only family she knows, perhaps having herself been abused, as well as having witnessed drug use by her parents. At 13, her life memories are mostly negative, her self esteem is low, and she is feeling unloved, suddenly living in a strange new place.
Mary and the other 1,755 children who were in group homes at 12/31/20 desperately need someone to care about them, to create beautiful happy memories that every child deserves. That is the objective of Arizona Sunshine Angels (“the Angels”).
Children in group homes throughout Arizona know Sandra Hurst and Cassa Olmstead, not by their names, but as “Grandma!” Sandra and Cassa are the leaders of the Angels, a non-profit organization that brings special moments to children in foster care whose life has brought them to a group home until a more permanent living solution can be found for them. These boys and girls have experienced abuse and neglect at the hands of adults they knew as family, but still their biggest dream is to have someone love them. That’s what the Angels do for more than 500 children every year – provide unconditional love and support to help them through difficult days, to put a smile on a child’s face who doesn’t smile often enough.
Formed in 1999 when one volunteer, Flor Smithger, enlisted her friends to help children in group homes. Shortly thereafter, Sandra and Cassa joined the ranks, and ever since they have devoted their time, love and passion to bring a ray of sunshine to youngsters in foster care. They have served as volunteers, using their residence as an office and closets in group homes as storage for items donated by the community to help these children, putting all donations to maximum use to help the children.
These Angels devote themselves to making special, positive memories for children who have had too many tough times. When a child is placed in a group home, the Angels provide a welcome box with personal care items and snacks. Positive memories are created with a birthday celebration that includes gifts and a cake, along with graduation celebrations and holiday presents. Items that most children take for granted, including haircuts, backpacks and clothing are provided by the Angels as well.
Sandra and Cassa have spent most of their “retirement” years dedicating their energies to these boys and girls. Hugs, smiles and gratitude are the gifts they receive in return for their service to the kids. They talk proudly of the child they took into their home to care for and comfort during his trauma-filled days, and of the boys and girls who call after leaving foster care just to say hi, or to request that the Grandmas sing them the Birthday Song. Their hearts are filled with joy, knowing that special moments have been created for children in foster care, and hoping that they will be remembered first, before all of the horrors that too many kids have experienced and witnessed.
The team of Grandma’s from Arizona Sunshine Angels maintains a year-round presence in the lives of children in foster care, providing supports needed to achieve success in school and in life. They show these boys and girls that they are loved, and that they can survive and thrive. Exactly what every grandparent seeks to do for their grandchildren. Grandmas Sandra and Cassa are truly angels, indeed they are lifesavers for the 500+ boys and girls whose lives they impact every year!
Learn more about Arizona Sunshine Angels and their wish list of needs at www.sunshineangelsaz.org. As a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO#10014), Arizona taxpayers can receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions.
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.
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