Children’s Guardian Fund & Goodwill partner for foster children

SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – Goodwill Manasota and the Children’s Guardian Fund are partnering on a new initiative, “Celebrate You,” with the goal of brightening the birthdays of children in foster care. Thanks to generous donors John and Robin Sullivan and Maureen and Jack Higgins, the program will provide children in foster care with gift certificates of $35 to Goodwill retail stores to purchase any items they choose – from toys and books to clothing, make-up and jewelry – on their birthday.

The “Celebrate You” donors selected Goodwill because they know the benefits of their donation are two-fold: the child will feel the affection of and support from his or her community, and the funds spent on the gift cards will support Goodwill’s efforts to provide job skills training and create jobs for individuals with disabilities or other barriers to employment.

Many children in foster care come from neglectful, unstable, or even abusive environments. They are often removed from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. In the past, some foster children may never have had the opportunity to celebrate a birthday. In 1995, the Children’s Guardian Fund began a program to provide each child who was placed in state care with a gift card to ensure at least a small birthday celebration. The amount of the gift card has increased over the years and, today, every child receives a $35 gift card for their birthday.

“With nearly 1,300 kids in the foster care system in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, every donation counts,” said Jan Vestal, program director of the Children’s Guardian Fund. “Showing these children that there are people who care about them is one the best things that we can do.”

In 2016, Goodwill Manasota and the Children’s Guardian Fund partnered on the “Good Futures/Coaches Corp” program, providing young adults who have aged out of the foster care system with emergency assistance, career services, financial literacy classes, and mentoring. The goal of this program is to provide assistance on multiple fronts – housing, education, financial literacy, and healthy living – so that young adults without a family support system have the opportunity to achieve life and career success.

“We are so fortunate to have the Children’s Guardian Fund in our community to assist in providing normalcy and enrichment to those children who have been removed from abusive and neglectful homes,” said Goodwill Manasota vice president Veronica Brandon Miller. “Thanks to our ongoing partnership and two compassionate and generous couples, children in foster care can enjoy an extra-special birthday and know that there are people in the community who care about them.”

PHOTO ID: (From l-r) Goodwill Manasota vice presidents Margie Genter and Veronica Brandon Miller, ‘Celebrate You’ donors Robin and John Sullivan and Maureen and Jack Higgins, and Children’s Guardian Fund program director Jan Vestal

About Goodwill Manasota

Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2017, Goodwill Manasota served 11,672 people, placed 555 people in jobs, assisted 360 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce, and provided 19,540 hours of on-the-clock training for its employees. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 41 million pounds out of the landfill. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit

About Children’s Guardian Fund 

The Children’s Guardian Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Incorporated on November 17, 1995, the specific goal of the CGF is to provide support to the children in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit (Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties) who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. Working exclusively with the Guardian ad Litem program, the CGF has provided financial support for, among other things, tutoring, school field trips, summer camp, clothing needed for work, beds, cribs, and birthday and holiday gift cards. For more information, please call or email Jan Vestal, Program Director for Children’s Guardian Fund, at (941) 447-6584 or To make a donation to Children’s Guardian Fund online, go to and click the orange “donate” button.

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