Julie and Phil Taylor show they understand the power of love year after year.
The Sarnia couple invest loads of time and money to ensure former foster children who have “aged-out” of the system aren’t overlooked at the holidays.
For eight years now, the Taylors have prepared a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings with gifts for up to 100 young adults aged 18 to 21, many of whom have no family to be with at Christmas.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” says Julie Taylor.
She spent her first 10 years in Egypt, where she was raised by an Egyptian dad and French-Canadian mom. Her parents often took her to an orphanage.
“We helped clean and spent time with the kids. Before I married Phil, I told him that I planned to have foster children,” she said. “Phil’s the most tender human on the planet. He was completely in agreement.”
About a year after the couple married, when she was 23, they began welcoming foster children into their Sarnia home, sometimes for weeks or months and often for years. Over 17 years, the Taylors have fostered more than 40 kids and adopted two. They also have three biological children.
About nine years ago, Taylor decided more needed to be done for the “aged-out” kids. When children in care turn 18 the system stops paying foster parents to keep them. Frequently, they choose to live on their own.
The local Children’s Aid Society has long treated aged-out foster children to pizza and pop around Christmas, but Taylor was determined to provide something more traditional as well.
She found numerous organizations to donate money for a hall, decorations and gifts.
The Taylors’ extended family and friends prepare the feast with four to five turkeys, casseroles, cake, salad and desserts.
“My mom, my sister, my mother-in-law, me and a friend will each put a turkey in the oven. We still do all the cooking ourselves and the CAS staff, led by (child services worker) Judy Stewardson, make the desserts,” said Taylor.
“It is the best Christmas ever.”
The community contributes generously and local businessman Fabien Jagoo volunteers to DJ and donate door prizes. The Sarnia Sting provide a stuffie from its Teddy Bear Toss for each guest.
“Santa comes. We have bags of gifts filled to the brim for each one. There’s a photo booth. Every year, it just gets better and better,” Taylor said.
Sadly, this year’s gathering had to be cancelled. But the turkey dinner will be cooked, packaged and distributed individually on Dec. 13, along with the gifts.
While past parties have had 70 to 100 over-agers, this year only 48 signed up.
“I really don’t know why,” said Taylor.
As usual, wish lists have been submitted for presents and sponsors have been found to buy them.
Taylor said her family continues to buy and cook dinner each year, but some outstanding expenses aren’t covered. Donations are accepted at the Sarnia-Lambton CAS, by calling Nicole Hillier at 519-336-0623, ext. 524.