PITTSBURG — Children in foster care may have a brighter Christmas with the help of donations from the Mt. Carmel Auxiliary.
The Auxiliary is hosting a toy drive for area children in foster care until Dec. 10. People may drop off toys and gift cards for children — newborns to teens — at the Via Christi Gift Shop.  
Most foster care children leave home with only a few bags leaving many belongings behind, Director of Volunteer Services Susan Barrett said. The drive will help Cherokee County, Crawford County, Bourbon County and Linn County foster children.
Approximately six years ago, Barrett was doing a background check on a volunteer outside a judicial building when she noticed three children with trash bags. She soon realized they were foster children and they were being taken from their parents.
“It was two boys and a little girl,” she said. “The little girl just kept watching me, she was a beautiful little girl.
“My first thought was I wish I could take her, but then I just kept having this feeling that I needed to do something, probably a little nudge from God.”
The drive back to her office was “thought provoking,” she couldn’t get the children out of her head, Barrett said. Once she made it to her office she called KVC to find out what she could do.
“The Auxiliary, my friends and hospital staff started collecting and making bags, blankets and stuffed animals,” Barrett said. “Then we started collecting school supplies and at Christmas I decided to adopt some children — we just did a few — then the next year we did around 50 and it has just progressed the last few years.
“This year, we have 159 children so far and probably over 20,000 in gifts.”
Barrett said the fundraiser was made possible by the “giving people” in the Mt. Carmel Auxiliary and generous coworkers and friends.
“It is a true blessing for everyone that helps and a great project for the Auxiliary as we like to support community as well as the hospital,” she said. “I have several parents that donate in memory of their child or a family member they lost.
“Some give because they didn’t have much for Christmas as a child or because once they were helped and just passing it on.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.