SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) — Linda Gregory found joy in becoming a foster parent, and purpose in helping families like hers. Gregory and her husband became foster parents to little Eddie when he was just 10 months old.

“It’s just a great experience to be able to be a parent and to love a child and help them through their hardest times,” Gregory explained.

One of the first steps she took when Eddie came into her life four years ago was to join the Marin Foster Parent Association, a grassroots volunteer group that offers support services to foster families and caregivers. But more importantly, it offers community.

“There’s a lot of support because it’s not easy all the time,” Gregory said. “All these kids have experienced trauma in their lives so it’s a great resource. It’s like a bigger family, our extended family.”

Since joining, Gregory has adopted Eddie and has thrown herself into volunteering for the association. Barbara Sabido, who has fostered 10 children over the years, says Gregory has a grace about her.

“She makes it a point of knowing every member of the association, and I think that is a big part of the support people come to the association looking for,” Sabido said.

For the last three years, Gregory has served as President of the Marin Foster Parent Association, volunteering her time seven days a week to help children in need.

Much of her spare time is spent in what looks like a closet in San Rafael, surrounded by racks of new, donated clothing. It’s the association’s new distribution center, a project Gregory proudly points to as a great collaborative success.

“Before this distribution center, we had stuff in peoples garages, and it was just not easy to get out,” Gregory remembered. “Most kids when they come into foster care they really have nothing — they only usually have the clothes on their backs. It sounds so extreme, but it’s the truth. So having clothing, to be able to get some toy, a stuffed animal, just really makes them feel loved and safe.”

There are also racks with toys, school supplies, and even some furniture. This small distribution center serves up to 40 families a month, something Debi Moss of the Marin County Children and Family Services calls a tremendous resource.

“It’s easily accessible for the caregivers and for the social workers,” Moss said. “It makes such a big difference for our families, it really does.”

Under Gregory’s leadership, this tiny but dedicated group has raised money for tutoring, after-school enrichment programs, and a new internship at the center for emancipated foster youth to get job skills and mentoring from people who care.

“You only hear in the media the terrible stories, but I am here to say there are some amazing people out there, taking in kids and doing such great work with them and just helping them be the best they can be,” Gregory said.

So for volunteering her time to give foster families the support they need to thrive, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Linda Gregory.

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