Kern County's foster children are making wishes that will be fulfilled by community generosity through the annual Holiday Cottage event, which begins Monday and runs through Dec. 11 at Rosedale Village.
Organized by Kern's Department of Human Services, the cottage was established 30 years ago to provide gifts to foster children of all ages.
"In the 12 years I've been involved, we have always filled every wish that has come in because this community is so generous," said Heidi Carter-Escudero, outreach and communications coordinator for the department.
The wishes of each foster child — this year there are about 1,000 children asking for gifts — will be placed with the child's first name and their age on trees that line the walls of the cottage at Suite 104 in Rosedale Village, at the corner of Rosedale Highway and Calloway Drive.
Each child completes a letter with both a first- and second- choice wish. Requests include everything from Hatchimals and superhero action figures to skateboards and bicycles (although Carter-Escudero noted there's been a drop in bike requests and increase in video game wishes over the years).
During the 15 days the cottage is open, volunteers representing local community groups will help members of the public grant a wish to fill. The gift is then purchased and returned to the cottage, unwrapped, and delivered to the child in time for the holidays.
Last year, 770 wishes were filled, Carter-Escudero said. Cash donations are also accepted to purchase more expensive requests.
Among those receiving gifts will be several 18- and 19-year-olds who have remained in the foster program while attending school, Carter-Escudero said. The furniture at the Holiday Cottage, furnished by Ikea, will be donated to foster youth moving out on their own for the first time, she said.
The cottage was built by Home Depot.
"The size and scope of this community project ... wouldn't be possible without the generosity of Kern County," Carter-Escudero said.
The cottage has scheduled its grand opening for 11 a.m. Monday, and will remain open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Monday, Dec. 11.
Foster families that have not yet signed up and wish to participate can reach Carter-Escudero at 661-633-7104.