There are 12 handmade gingerbread houses on the dining room table in the Kolas home. One for each member of the household, and two extras.
Think your house is bustling this holiday season? Try serving dinner to eight growing boys and girls, ages 8 to 20. Try wrapping Christmas presents for a full week. Try juggling this parenthood writ large and a career while your house is under construction because your ever-expanding family has outgrown it.
“It’s nutty, very nutty,” mom Rebecca Kolas said. “When we go around at the food store people look at us like we’re crazy for buying so much food.”
Rebecca, 50, never envisioned this. As the birth mother of three boys, she wanted to adopt a girl. That girl had five siblings who needed a home, and bit by bit, the Kolas family took them in.
“Our heart broke for them because of all the hardships these children endured,” Rebecca said. “They’ve been in and out of various foster homes their whole lives. We wanted to keep them together.”
During this season of giving, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more meaningful gift.
“I feel like everyone needs to give back in some way,” Rebecca said. “This is our way of doing it.”
‘I love it here’
In 2013, Rebecca and husband Robert Kolas decided to become foster parents to 2-year-old Ella Fuller through the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. Upon learning Ella had a 1-year-old brother William, they took him in, too. In 2019, Rebecca and Robert adopted them both.
“I’m happy they took me an and adopted me because it’s a warm home and I love it here,” Ella said last week.
Last year, Rebecca learned that Ella’s older birth siblings became parentless after the sudden death of their father. So she and Robert agreed to foster three of them. A fourth joined the household this year, in September.
“I’m very happy and thankful,” said one of the newer arrivals, 15-year-old Emma Fuller. “They didn’t have to do any of this, but they chose to. They kept us all together and that’s a really good thing.”
Rebecca’s birth sons, 20-year-old Ryan Germann and 17-year-old Dylan Germann, split time living at Kolas house and staying elsewhere with their father, Rebecca’s ex-husband. While with Rebecca, they graciously relocated to the basement to make room for the Fuller siblings (Ryan spends much of the year away at Susquehanna University).
“This has taught us how to be generous,” Ryan said.
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SOURCE: Asbury Park Press, Jerry Carino