A spirit of friendship, giving

First Posted: 12/8/2014

CLARKS SUMMIT — A pile of 37 colorful gift bags and packages wrapped around the base of a Christmas tree at Highland Associates on Monday morning.

The presents were purchased by associates of the architecture, engineering and design firm and donated, along with $500 in cash contributions to the Friendship House’s foster care and adoption program for its annual Christmas party, held that evening at Applebee’s in Dickson City.

“It gets them all in the Christmas spirit,” Debi Saunders, organizer of the collection, said of Highland Associates employees. “And they all really do enjoy purchasing the gifts for the children, to make their Christmases a little brighter.”

Several other area businesses and individuals from the community made donations, as well. Saunders said her workplace began participating at least 15 years ago.

Applebee’s sponsors the event, during which foster care families enjoy food, open gifts and mingle with other foster families.

According to Stacy Dori, director of foster care and adoption services, 84 people signed up for this year’s event, which Santa Clause will attend to present the children, ages infant through 17, with their gifts.

Laura Suarez, foster care case manager, said one important aspect of the event is the opportunity it gives foster children to see they are not alone and interact with others who are in similar situations to their own.

“It’s an atmosphere where we can get everyone together,” she said.

Dori expressed gratitude toward Highland Associates and other businesses and community members who help make the event happen.

“The staff at the Friendship House foster care and adoption program are very appreciative of the outpouring of generosity of the staff from Highland Associates,” she said. “The gifts will help to make the foster children’s holidays very happy.”

Excess gifts donated will be entrusted to the foster parents for the children to open on Christmas morning.

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