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Christmas without a “forever” home

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There is nothing like being home for the holidays, but in Pulaski County more than 150 children in the foster care system will be celebrating Christmas without a permanent home. 

Without a forever family, most children in foster care don't have the opportunity to establish holiday traditions. So the Project Zero Christmas party has become something both the kids and volunteers look forward to all season long.

"I feel like, and I've always felt this way, that foster kids are no different than other kids and they don't deserve anything less than what we would do for our own kids," said Christie Erwin of Project Zero. "That's how our church family feels and it's just been a blessing and its overwhelming. Like I've already experienced Christmas after I've gone through this...because it's just a beautiful thing to see."

Christie has been a foster parent to more than 50 children.  With the help of Project Zero and several local churches, she gets a wish list from each of the kids.  Then volunteers shop, wrap and distribute the gifts at parties like this one.  18-year-old Diesha Jackson is available for adoption and has been in seven different foster homes over the past six years.  This party is the only consistent Christmas celebration she's ever had.

"Every Christmas, you have something to look forward to... Christmas presents, people that care about you.  People that you see that you know from school or people that you've met over the years since you've been in foster care.  It's special.  It's become a special day," Diesha said.

14-year-old Darian Green, who is also available for adoption, feels the same way.

"I think it's pretty great that there are people like these that are actually here to meet me and support me in my time of need and I think it's pretty cool.  I wish more people would do that," Darian said.

However, it's not just the foster children who get so much from all of the giving.  Erin Brady and her family got involved with Project Zero three years ago.

"It was something that we could get the whole family to come and as soon as our girls got involved and met the kids, it was just something we felt like we wanted to be a part of forever," Erin said.

"We print names to go with their presents and sometimes I see the same names every single year and it makes me sad, but then I realize that they're getting all of these presents and then I'm happy for them that they do," Ellen Brady said.

"These may be the only presents they get all year and so it's good to see them get excited when they see all of the presents they're going to get," Anna Brady said.

But, of course, the gift they want for these children and the one these children want most themselves is to find their forever family, a permanent place to call home.

"When you see them come into a family where they have the security and the nurturing and the love and the permanence that a forever family brings and you see parents who have been longing and praying and hoping and waiting for children and when it all comes together...there's really just no way to describe what that is like.  It's just really a miraculous thing," said Christie.

To find out more about ways you can help foster children in Arkansas or adoption, click here to visit Project Zero's website.

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