Metro Atlanta nonprofit dedicated to serving foster children is celebrating a cause that 'Matters'

Lawrenceville nonprofit Because One Matters is holdings its first annual Jolly Jamboree on Nov. 26. (Andrea Barclay)

For Because One Matters, the Christmas spirit is not just reserved for December.

Founded by Gwinnett County resident Andrea Barclay in 2014, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to serving the needs of foster children and youth from communities or homes with economic disparities in education and developmental resources.

On Nov. 26, Matters will be holding its first annual Jolly Jamboree, a holiday-themed party designed to bring local foster families holiday cheer, in addition to raising money for the program’s “Restoring Dignity One Heart at a Time” fundraising initiative. Proceeds will go towards purchasing new winter items for local children.

“This is a great time of the year for us to have a celebration,” said Barclay. “We will have a lot of activities for the kids; lots of arts and crafts, ornament decorations, a DJ, and the biggest gift of all is that each child is going to be able to pick out their own gift for their parents for free. The parents work very hard and there are not enough of them out there, especially for the older kids.”

While Barclay herself has never served as foster parent, she is more than familiar with the system.

After the loss of her daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1990, Barclay began to look into the process of becoming an adoptive parent throughout the early ’90s, later backing out due to the tedious process and self-doubt about her motivations for the major step.

“I wasn’t sure if I was doing it for the right reasons, or if I was only doing it to try and replace my daughter,” she said.

Nearly 20 years later in 2013, a sermon from her church’s pastor that Barclay received as a “sign from God” once again led her to the foster care system, this time with her reaching out to the Gwinnett County Division of Family and Children Services with the desire to assist in helping already established foster families.

What began with arranging birthday parties for foster children grew to the organization providing services such as clothing, back-to-school giveaways and home-cooked Thanksgiving meals for over 5,500 children since the program’s inception.

As with previous events held by the nonprofit, The Jamboree was inspired by the chance to provide a well-deserved celebration for children and young adults adjusting to holidays in a new location, and often with foster parents and siblings that they have not yet become familiar with.

“Initially we thought about providing them with bedding and furniture, and then we realized that a lot of these kids don’t really have any holidays,” said Barclay. “It also gives us a chance for the families themselves to come together.”

She hopes that the festivities will help to provide a much-needed escape from the trials and tribulations associated with the foster care system, with children often being bounced from a home they have made a connection with to another, and parents struggling to provide financial care with less than sustainable payments given by the government.

“I don’t know if there is one thing that can fix it, but the system is broken,” said Barclay. “It’s going to take a lot of discussion from foster families, DFACS, the government … it’s not something that is going to be fixed overnight.”

She also hopes that donators and supporters will not forget about the organization’s year-long initiatives once the holiday season is gone and forgotten.

“Many nonprofits get a lot of attention during the holidays, which is great, but we want people to remember that we are here year-round, 24/7, Sunday through Saturday,” said Barclay. “We may be small, but we grow mighty and stronger each year.”