[In gallery photos, left to right: Contents of "Sweet Cases"; Fingerpaint staffers Lindsay Eisinger, Brendon DiSanto, Zoe McGuire and Bo Goliber, photos by www.PhotoAndGraphic.com; staff assembling bikes and decorating "Sweet Cases"; staff gathered for a presentation by Bill Marszalek of Northern Rivers; and Bill Marszalek up close, photos by Larry Goodwin.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A host of family difficulties can force a child into foster care. Direct physical abuse, domestic violence and drug addiction on the part of parents are the most common causes, experts say.
In some of the worst situations, kids in that type of trouble have to leave their homes in a hurry with nothing of value to them.
That is where philanthropy specialist Bo Goliber and 90-plus staff members and interns at the Fingerpaint marketing agency hope to make a difference.
On Friday, Goliber is leading an effort at the company’s headquarters on Broadway to build several bicycles and fill 94 duffel bags, called “Sweet Cases,” as a means to boost the spirits of children served by the Albany-based Northern Rivers Family of Services.
The Sweet Cases, Goliber explained, are a simple but effective way to make kids who suddenly enter the foster care system “feel normal in the moment.”
Many times the reasons behind family separations are “heart-wrenching when you really think about it,” she said, noting how an estimated 1,200 kids nationwide enter foster care every day.
Goliber billed the June 30 event as “our first company-wide philanthropy day,” since employees at Fingerpaint’s Pennsylvania and Arizona offices also will build bikes and fill the same blue Sweet Cases with teddy bears, coloring books and personal care items to be distributed.
The reality of kids in foster care “really resonated with our staff,” Goliber said, adding that a ”values-based” approach to employee relations at Fingerpaint attracts those who genuinely care about others.
At least one Fingerpaint employee in the Philadelphia office actually had an experience in foster care. “She’s so excited to be able to share her personal story,” Goliber said.
Fingerpaint is making the effort in partnership with a California organization called Together We Rise. “There’s a ton of coordination, but that’s why we partner with them,” Goliber admitted.
Fingerpaint employees were expected to raise $6,000. But with the aid of social media and flea markets offering homemade goods—and a company contribution of $3,000—they raised a total closer to $10,000.
“Giving our employees the opportunity to engage with each other through these kinds of activities strengthens our relationships and our success as a company,” Fingerpaint Founder Ed Mitzen said in a statement. “We’re here to benefit clients and their customers, of course, but we also know we’re a force for good in the world.”
Bill Marszalek, the executive program director of foster care services at Northern Rivers, admitted that connections with businesses like Fingerpaint have a noticeable impact.
“The reality is it costs a lot to provide these services,” Marszalek said. “We’re taking kids in and caring for them every day.”
Children in foster care need shelter, food, clothes and personal care items like anyone else. Marszalek estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the kids served by Northern Rivers remain in the system for 9 or 12 months.
There are approximately a dozen Saratoga area kids in foster care at present, he added.
In its latest annual budget—for a coverage area that stretches as far west as Binghamton and as far north as Queensbury—Northern Rivers reported an expense for services alone of more than $72 million.
“Our goal is not to make money,” Marszalek said. “Our goal is to provide service. We’re here for families. It’s hard, hard work.”
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