BNSF employees sharing, caring for youth through birthday boxes
Every child deserves a safe and loving home, but sadly, some children and youth experience abuse or neglect. That’s where CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) comes in to make a life-changing difference. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate the best interests for these children, many of whom are in foster care.
CASA is a nationwide organization with volunteers trained and supported by highly qualified staff members running programs across the country. BNSF employees, with the help of a nonprofit called 101 Elite Men, recently came together to build 63 “birthday boxes” for local foster children who are served by CASA Amarillo in Texas.
"We work with a lot of teens, so this is geared toward our teenagers,” Executive Director of Amarillo Area CASA Jarah Mendoza said. “A lot of times in foster care, things look a lot different than for others in the world, so a lot of our kids want normal teen things. The boys want Axe or Old Spice body wash, the girls Cantu products for their ethnic hair or scrunchies. Then they just want to celebrate their birthday with cake and gift cards and balloons like everyone else.”
Support for the birthday boxes began with a $6,000 donation from the BNSF Railway Foundation to purchase the items to go inside, including hair products, birthday cake ingredients, games and a gift card, among others. Each child will receive the gift on his or her birthday.
Choosing what to put inside the boxes was just the beginning. BNSF employees – some traveling from as far away as Kansas – helped to shop and create the boxes. The 101 Elite Men were invited by BNSF to get involved, all with a goal to further the impact and spread awareness for CASA.
Herman Moore, a signal technical trainer for BNSF’s Kansas Division, came from Kansas City to participate. “I raised two young children of my own and helping kids has been really important to me,” Moore said. “BNSF’s association with this program not only promotes us as a transportation company but as a group of people who cares about community.”
Aubrey Garrett, a terminal trainmaster at Amarillo, said this project really helped fill a need, both for the youth and personally. “Not many people think of these things as they relate to these kids, and if we can do even something small, that makes me happy. It made my whole day that my company was willing to step in to help us help our community,” Garrett said.
Added Jeanelle Davis, public affairs executive director: “At BNSF, we are all about supporting the community. These communities are not only where we operate but where we are invested, and our employees are invested in causes and initiatives that they are passionate about. CASA of Amarillo is no different. They are making a really important impact in the Amarillo community and helping some of our most vulnerable youth.”
Amarillo Area CASA serves seven counties, with a total of 800 children in foster care, of which the organization serves 28 percent. To learn more about the nonprofit and how to help, visit their website.
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