The 100-year-old Columbia Rosenwald School resembles a jewel box this time of year. Inside are Christmas trees decorated and donated by the community that will be given to families who are sheltering children in foster care.
The project, the Giving Tree, is in its fifth year and is the brainchild of Christina DeWitt Matthews. Matthews was chairman of the West Columbia Chamber of Commerce board when she created the project to benefit the nonprofit group, Gulf Coast CASA.
"When a child enters the foster care system because his or her home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help them. That volunteer is called a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA," said Matthews. She has been a CASA volunteer for almost three years and is currently working on her second case.
Gulf Coast CASA serves Brazoria, Matagorda and Wharton counties. The volunteers serve as the eyes and ears for the judge in child welfare cases. This includes researching each child's situation and making objective recommendations to help them reclaim their childhood from abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers are frequently the only constant presence in the children's lives as they navigate the foster care system, Matthews said.
She hopes to receive at least 25 fully decorated trees for every child in foster care that has a CASA volunteer. The trees will be displayed in the historic Rosenwald School through Dec. 4 after which they will be loaded onto a truck and delivered to foster families.
Last year, the project donated 26 trees, 25 to CASA families and one to an elderly widow in West Columbia.
Currently 147 children are in foster care in Brazoria, Matagorda and Wharton counties.
Giving Tree donations are still being taken. To inquire about the details, call the West Columbia Chamber of Commerce at 979-345-3921. Curious about CASA? Visit casa-mw.org/volunteer or call Aida Rodriguez at 979-308-4576.
When can you see the trees?
• Saturday, Nov. 26: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Sunday, Nov. 27: Noon to 5 p.m.
• Friday, Dec. 2: 2 to 7 p.m.
• Saturday, Dec. 3: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and after the Light Up the First Capitol Parade until 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Dec. 4: 1 to 4 p.m.