Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club

Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club members Debbie Sullivan and Lori Evans wrap gifts for foster kids prior to delivering them to group homes.

The Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club did it again.

With the help of other Ahwatukee residents, Kiwanians brought some cheer into the holidays for teens in group foster homes.

Though donations fell off during the Kiwanis drive, resulting in fewer teens getting gifts than the number helped in the previous two years, organizer Andy Pettyjohn said the club still made 143 foster youth in 15 homes have a better Christmas than they might otherwise have had.

Pettyjohn said she was grateful “to so many Kiwanis members, community businesses and community members who donated money, gift cards and clothing, maintained collections at different locations, picked up items, shopped for clothing, sorted items, baked cookies, wrapped gifts and delivered gifts and cookies. Every group home was deeply appreciative.”

 Each boy got at least a package of socks, boxers, shirt, sports, sweats or pajama pants, hygiene items and a $25 gift card for either Wal-Mart/Target or Harkins/AMC.  Some got jackets, some an extra shirt, some a blanket or quilt and fast food gift cards and/or miscellaneous items, she said.

Every girl got a jacket, pants, shirt, undies, socks, hygiene items (including a hair brush), an art therapy adult coloring book with colored pencils and a $25 gift card for either Wal-Mart/Target or Harkins/AMC. Some also received pajamas, a blanket or quilt and fast food gift cards.

Quilts were made and donated by the ARC Charity Sewers, and Pecos Storage provided free space to store the gifts until wrapping day.

Debbie Sullivan organized a Christmas meal for one of the group homes that she delivered on Christmas Day.

Carrie Chipman organized bakers to donate cookies so each group home could receive cookies.

“We had donations of several new and used toys and stuffed animals which will be donated to Helen’s Hope Chest and Jose’s Closet, who provide clothing and toys to foster youth,” Pettyjohn added.

The gifts came at a time when the head of Arizona Helping Hands, the state’s largest provider of basic needs for foster kids, is concerned about the impact of federal tax law changes on donations.

“The increase in the standard deduction available to individuals has every charity concerned,” said Shufelt, whose organization tried to help 30,000 children who spent at least a day in emergency foster care in 2018. An estimated 14,000 kids are in longer-term foster care.

“We receive no government funding for our services to these kids who have been victims of abuse and neglect,” he said. “We rely on individual donors for the vast majority of our funding. And we use 93 cents of every dollar donated for direct service expenses.”

“The potential negative impact of the tax law change has me very concerned about our ability to raise the funds to continue our important work,” he said.

Even before the year ended, Arizona Helping Hands provided more than 3,200 kids with a bed or crib.

“Perhaps the most important symbol of safety and security to a child who has been removed from troubled home life is a spot to lay their head in comfort, snuggled up for a night’s sleep,” he said.

Shufelt said he’s concerned that changes in the tax law as they affect deductible donations may “mean that donors will think twice about using their dollars to make lives better for children and families in need. The answer remains to be seen.”

But he noted that in the last quarter of 2018, “individual donations to our organization are down by 45 percent from a year ago” and that “I worry that this is due to the confusion and caution brought on by the new tax law.”

He’s hoping that Arizonans keep in mind that they can still contribute through the state’s tax credit program, which allows a dollar-for-dollar deduction for contributions to qualifying foster care organizations such as Arizona Helping Hands.

“We bring joy and hope to boys and girls who have experienced horrific circumstances due to choices made by ignorant adults,” Shufelt said. “They are the victims who we assist. I can only hope that time will prove that the main motivation for charitable giving is that people truly care about those in need in our community. Only with hindsight will we learn the true impact of the tax changes on our children.”

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