As a volunteer with the state’s Department of Children and Families, Gloucester resident Natilia Woozencroft has learned a lot about the system and those that it assists.

As DCF works to keep children safe from abuse and neglect through providing families with support or finding children new permanent homes, no two stories are exactly the same and each one has its own hardships.  

“You sit in these meetings and hear horrific stories,” the junior at the University of Massachusetts said. “I wanted to do something.” 

Her desire for action to positively change the lives of children and families involved with DCF on Cape Ann and the North Shore has manifested itself in the form of a virtual gift drive. 

Woozencroft’s Cape Ann DCF Holiday Gift Drive has been set up to donate holiday gifts to 150 children and their families who are involved with the Cape Ann and Salem DCF office.  

“We hope to spread holiday joy and cheer to those in our community who have been particularly affected by the changes brought by this year,” she said. 

According to Woozencroft’s fundraising website, https://bit.ly/3kR5M4k, there are four ways to get involved with the gift drive: 

- Purchase toys and art supplies at Toodeloos!, 142 Main St. in Gloucester, which has agreed to give 10% discount to those purchasing for the drive. 

- Peruse the gift drive's wish list at https://bit.ly/32ZtVzG and send a gift online. 

- Purchase a gift and drop it off at either Toodeloos!, or Cape Ann Lanes, 53 Gloucester Ave. in Gloucester. 

- Donate financially at the GoFundMe page for Woozencroft’s drive, https://bit.ly/2HnYlnK. All money raised online will go toward purchasing gifts at local stores. 

“It was really forward thinking of Natilia to realize that this is a population that isn’t covered by the kids drives in the area, or might not have guardians,” Caitlin Pszenny of Cape Ann Lanes said.

A representative from DCF directed all inquiries to The Wonderfund, a private non-profit organization that works on behalf of children engaged with DCF. 

"The Wonderfund is so grateful for donors such as Natilia who go above and beyond to create magical holiday moments for children involved with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families," Jessie Stein of the Wonderfund wrote in an email to the Times. "The holidays can be a very difficult time for these children, and we would not be able to bring them joy without the support and dedication for Wonderfund Holiday Donors throughout the Commonwealth as well as the social workers working tirelessly on the front lines. To be able to fulfill a child’s personalized gift wish list during the holiday season is absolutely invaluable and the Wonderfund is humbled to be able to do so."

As Woozencroft looks to get the drive off the ground this year — her goal is to raise $3,000 — she's already looking ahead. 

“I’m hoping to do (the drive) every year,” she said, mentioning that next year she hopes to increase the number of children she supports. 

“I’m thinking maybe 250 kids next year,” Woozencroft said.

Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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