Darren Weeks and his wife Keri

Darren Weeks (shown with wife Keri) is the new resource development coordinator for Catoosa County Department of Family and Children Services foster care system. (Contributed photo)

After 22 years of working for Shaw Industries, Darren Weeks woke up one morning realizing he wanted to do something else with his life – something that mattered more.

"A hundred years from now," says Weeks, "no one is going to remember the carpet you had in your living room. But if you do something to help others, that can have a ripple effect and make a difference in your community, your state, your country."

So Weeks enrolled in college and started attending classes with people half his age. "I thought I’d like to work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

One thing Weeks didn’t see himself doing was working in the foster care system, but an internship in Gordon County changed his mind. "I fell in love with it. I can’t imagine doing anything else now."

Weeks has been the resource development coordinator for Catoosa County Department of Family and Children Service’s foster care program only since June 1. This will be his first year helping out with their Secret Santa program.

"Wendy Clement is our official Secret Santa coordinator," says Weeks. "She recently took another job, outside DFCS, but on the condition she could still manage the Secret Santa program. I’ll be helping her in every way I can."

"The work I do with Catoosa DFCS," says Weeks, "is physically and emotionally exhausting, but a joy and peace comes with knowing you’ve done everything you can to help kids have a better life."

You can help, too. Here’s how.

There are over 150 Catoosa County children in foster care. "We have wonderful foster parents," says Weeks. "They really care about the children. They sacrifice a lot."

Money is often tight for foster families, which is why the Secret Santa program is so important. It’s a way for the community to help children who are struggling in ways most kids don’t have to worry about.

If you’d like to buy gifts for one or more children, you can contact Weeks and he’ll make sure you get the children’s wish lists.

If you or your business would like to donate money or gifts, Weeks can help you with that.

"We need toys, big and small," says Weeks. "Clothing is great, too. Children need socks, underclothes and coats – coats are a big thing."

Gifts should be new and not gift-wrapped. All help is welcome. Gifts and donations are needed by Dec. 1 to make sure there’s time to sort everything and get it to children who are in foster homes around the state. As with the Walker County foster care system, children often end up having to be placed far from home because there aren’t enough foster homes in the county.

"We try to make sure every child gets some things they really want," says Weeks. "This is a chance to help make them feel special."

Mr. Weeks can be contacted at 423-309-3619 or darren.weeks@dhs.ga.gov.