Tribal Social Services hosts children for Christmas party
January 10, 2017
Gila River Indian News
Christmastime can be difficult for some, but Tribal Social Services made sure that the 570-plus children under its care could celebrate the holidays with a smile.
Rawhide Western Town was like the North Pole – Gila River Branch on December 19, when TSS held a Christmas party where children could run around, have fun, meet Santa, and receive a Christmas present.
Leanne Wander, director of TSS, said, “Every year we do this for the children that are under Tribal Social Services. ... We work with these children all year long, we care for them, and I just think it’s our responsibility to make sure that the children are receiving gifts and they see some joy in their lives. So it’s very important that they be able to all come together, have fun, interact with each other, and receive a gift.”
The party provided games, gifts, and a hot meal, and gave the children a chance to feel a sense of community and have fun with relatives or other Gila River children their age.
“It’s a safe event. The kids can have fun playing together,” said Michael Henderson, a foster father of two Gila River children. “Any opportunity they have [to connect with other children from Gila River], it’s great.”
Dale Enos, a TSS case manager, has been working for decades in the field of social services.
He said, “Unfortunately, some of these children are not going to be able to spend time with their families. Some of them are in foster care, some of them are at RPY (the GRIC Residential Programs for Youth group home), but I think Social Services is doing a great job by organizing this. ... This brings the families together, too, because the families of the children come, too.”
“The Fire Department, our support staff at Tribal Social Services is really kind of the backbone that created all this and really make sure that all the children get sponsored, make sure that they have gifts when they do come, so it’s a huge undertaking,” said Enos.
Santa couldn’t have delivered all the gifts he did that day without the help of many elves in Gila River. This year, TSS partnered with the Gila River Fire Department, Gila River Gaming Enterprises, and a number of other GRIC departments and entities to hold a Toy Donation Drive through most of November and into December.
Rawhide donated time at the Western Town for the party, which was reserved for the children and their families.
Enos said bringing families together is a primary focus for TSS. “Reunification is first and foremost for the agency. [The party] is an excellent opportunity for the children to reconnect with the families and start that process.”