Fostering family values

Monday, December 15, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:40 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Season of Sharing

Robert Selsor knows he looks like Santa Claus. He used to play the jolly old elf for the Salvation Army around Christmas, and he said his appearance is instantly comforting to children whether or not he’s in full costume.

“The little ones know,” he said. “They see me and know that it’s OK, that I won’t hurt them.”

Selsor, 62, and his wife Connie have been foster parents for 30 years and have seen almost 300 children go through their home. They still keep in touch with some of them, particularly one who has just begun her freshman year at Columbia College.

“When I see a child leave my house and go out there and make something of themselves, I feel like maybe I’ve made a little difference,” Selsor said.

The Selsors try to make Christmas special for the children.

“All kids love Christmas,” Selsor said. “It doesn’t matter what their situation. Christmas is a time for family, and we want to make that really special.”

Because the Selsors live on a limited income, they depend on the kindness of others. Local sororities have had the children over for dinner, and the Voluntary Action Center regularly helps them. Each year, they receive a Christmas basket from the center.

Being a foster parent is stressful but rewarding, Selsor said.

“It’s for the kids, everything we do. It’s not for Connie and me,” Selsor said.

The Selsors recently returned home from an 11-day vacation — their first in 30 years — to visit their grandchildren.

After they retire from foster parenting, Connie said she would like to have a farm for neglected and abused animals.

GROUP: Voluntary Action Center

SUMMARY: The Voluntary Action Center calls itself the agency of first and last resort. Anyone trying to receive social services usually starts here. The group also offers emergency services. According to director Cindy Mustard, the agency has helped about 20,000 people this year. This is the 20th year for the Christmas Basket Program. They have 1,153 families (about 4,000 people) who have been adopted by individuals, churches and other organizations. Those who adopt a family provide a Christmas dinner and gifts for the family.

CONTACT: Volunteers or those wishing to make donations can call 449-6959 or 874-2273. Donations of toys or monetary gifts are appreciated. Some volunteers are still needed for the Christmas Basket program. The address is 800 N. Providence Rd., Columbia, 65203

WISH: Food for the family, bikes and skateboards for the children.

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