LeeAnn Petersen, co-founder of the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference and former foster child is spearheading an effort to deliver 40 Christmas stockings from 40 donors to teenage foster girls in the DC area. Each donor is asked to purchase a stocking and stuff it with basic toiletries and a few special items according to these four themes: academic, sports, music and fashion. The hope is that each girl will get a special stocking, made with care and customized to her interest, from a real person.
The charity in formation is called Stockings from Karen and is named for LeeAnn’s foster mother Karen Schwartzkopf. Karen and Dave Schwartzkopf opened their home and hearts to foster kids in San Bernardino County California in the early 1980s and served over 100 foster children through the years. The sudden loss of their own 12 year old daughter to a brain aneurism is what prompted the Schwartzkopf’s to get their foster license. While they took all ages and sexes of kids in need, the Schwartzkopf home became known as being particularly successful with raising teenage girls. LeeAnn arrived at the Schwartzkopf home in November 1984, the day after her 15th birthday. That Christmas, her first in foster care, LeeAnn received the very first stocking she had ever received in her life. LeeAnn fondly remembers the care and love that Karen put in to her and her foster siblings’ Christmas stockings – each one tailored to its prospective owner. All stockings had the usual staples of teen hygiene care and maintenance: deodorant, Bic razors, mouthwash, tooth brush, lip balm, hair bands, barrettes, lotion. Then there were the items that made you feel beautiful: makeup, nail polish, hosiery, earrings. Karen would always throw in a few things to customize the stocking for each child. For LeeAnn it meant something with her topaz birthstone, something related to sports, a cassette tape of new wave music and a fashion magazine. Whether Karen knew it or not, these stockings built confidence and gave the girls a sense of self-esteem and pride. The stockings were the highlight of the occasion for anyone who lived at or visited the Schwartzkopf’s home at Christmas. To LeeAnn they represented stability in a time of emotional upheaval and confidence for an ugly duckling looking to become a beautiful swan. Most of all, the stockings let the girls know someone cared about them enough to make them feel special.
In an effort to pay it forward and provide this same boost for today’s young women in foster care, Stockings from Karen will donate 40 Christmas stockings to the DC Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) to be distributed to the teen girls on their case load. These stockings have been paid for and assembled by friends of LeeAnn’s. Each donor will pick a theme (sports, academics, music, fashion) and shop for a girl to create for her a stocking they feel is really special. There is a price cap of $30 for each stocking, and all stockings must contain staple toiletries in addition to the theme items.
The stockings will be delivered to the CASA office on Monday, December 8th in keeping with CASA’s deadline for gifts under their Holiday Wish List program.
Contact: LeeAnn Petersen at Leeann@womeninadvocacy.com