Jacksonville organization seeks volunteers to celebrate foster children's birthdays

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In Northeast Florida there are hundreds of children in foster care at any given time.

Miah Laureano, who is 16 years old, has never celebrated her birthday.

She’s one of hundreds of local foster children who a new pilot program is aimed at helping.

“When you have a family and then suddenly, they get taken away from you, you get sad, you feel you don’t have (anybody), you're depressed, a lot of stuff goes through your head,” Laureano explained.

The Jewish Family and Community Services wants to give children like Miah something to celebrate.

The organization is looking for volunteers to help bring some birthday joy to local foster children.

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“It really struck me that we’re so focused on some of this other tangible things, are we forgetting that our youth are not even having their birthdays celebrated?” Laureano said.

Director Colleen Rodriguez has seen plenty of happy results during her 22 years with the organization.
"What we would like is a lasting relationship," Rodriguez said.

She’s hoping those birthday celebrations turn into something more.

Some mentors even return as parents, like Miah's foster mother, Raquel.

“Having that mentor, having that best friend, figure or support system is great. It makes you see life in a different way,” Laureano said.

The director says the program is a first of its kind for the organization.

“We would like for each of our youth to be able to choose the dessert of their choice, to go to a restaurant where they are going to be served, to be able to choose a present of their choice within reason,” Rodriguez said.

If you would like to become a volunteer or donate to the group, you can head over to their website or Facebook or contact Donna O'Steen via email at dosteen@jfcsjax.org or by phone at 904-394-5714.

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