“The Duffel Bag Project”
Providing New duffel bags for foster children in the
West Central Area, Minnesota.

suitcases

Picture this: A 5 year old girl is being told by a Police Officer and a Social Worker that she has to leave with them. Her parents are in another room yelling and crying. They quickly gather some of her things into a trash bag and take her from her home. When she is taken to her foster home she is surrounded by new things, new smells, and new people. She has to unpack her belongings from a trash bag.

We can do better!

Together We Rise, is a company that runs “Sweet Cases,” a program that makes this fundraiser possible. We are trying to raise $375.00 to get 15 bags. These bags will be decorated with fun designs and encouragement, filled with pillow pet/stuffed animal, coloring books/crayons, blanket, and hygiene kit that will belong to them and go with them throughout their journey.

DUFFLEBAGOur goal is to get 15 bags, with the recommended donation of $25 for each bag, meaning that our goal is $375. Any amount of money helps, even $5.

“What inspired you to do “The Duffel Bag Project?”
Jackie recalls her life as a foster child, “This project is close to my heart, because at some point in my life, I was a foster child. My birth father died in a motorcycle accident and my birth mother was deemed “unfit to be a mother,” due to mental and physical abuse, drug abuse and mental instability. I don’t remember when I was taken from my birth family, but I remember living in a foster home and short visits with my birth mother through social services. They were either at her house or at Social Services. Anytime visits with my birth mother were involved, I remember fighting, name calling, random men at the house, crying, drug use, and attempted kidnapping. I’ve been told I have lived in two foster homes until I was adopted. The second foster home I remember.

I remember the yard, the smell of the pigs from the farm, the multiple kids that came and went, and the names of my foster parents and their children. I remember putting pennies on the rail road track and running and hiding so we wouldn’t get hit, and running back to see if they were flattened. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go from foster home to foster home until I was 18 and “aged out of the system.” But I do remember people coming to visit me, look at me, spend time with me, to see if they wanted me in their family. It was almost like I was a puppy at the pound, waiting for someone to save me. My foster parents were loving and caring, but I never had anything of my own. My birth mother wouldn’t let me have my clothes or toys she bought me and my foster parents couldn’t afford to buy me things I wanted or needed. I ended up with hand me downs or shared toys with the foster parent’s children or the foster children. Around the age of 5, my family finally found me.

They are a loving, caring, giving, moral and understanding couple who accepted me and worked with me through my “problems” of being a child in the system and readjusting. They provided the best life that they could give me, far better than growing up in foster care, with my birth mother, or on the streets. I still have my things that I had when I left my foster home, they fit into a grocery bag. A few toys, some hand me down clothes, a photo album and some art work I created. I don’t remember if I had a suite case or not, but I doubt I did. My heart hurts for children in foster care, but sometimes it’s the “better option” for some situations. It’s a rough, tiring and mental struggle to be in foster care, even if it’s short time. I understand the pain, hurt, and confusion of being in a foster home. That is why I decided to do this project. It’s nice to have something of your own, even if it is “just a duffel bag, a coloring book, blanket and a stuffed animal.” I hope one of these duffel bags can bring a smile to a child and to remind them that they are cared for and not forgotten.”

This project is close to both Amanda’s and Jackie’s hearts, as they also have many friends that grew up in foster care, and friends and family members that are adopted.

The exact number of children that are in foster care in the Douglas County Area couldn’t be found, but I did find this on Adopt Us Kids:

In 2011, 4,995 children in Minnesota lived apart from their families in out-of-home care.
In 2011, 1,375 of the children living apart from their families were age 5 or younger, and 856 were 16 or older.
Of the 5,709 children exiting out-of-home care in Minnesota in 2011, 63.8% were reunited with their parents or other family members.
In 2011, 580 children were legally adopted through the public child welfare agency in Minnesota.
Of the 4,995 children in out-of-home care in 2011, 923 or 18.5% were waiting to be adopted.

UPDATE: Gift Card Donations
“Why don’t you fill the duffel bags with things that they really need, like clothes, socks and shoes? They don’t need crayons, coloring books or a stuffed animal! This is stupid.” -A comment made to me by a co-worker when I asked for a $5 donation. My idea was that if I got 5 co-workers to donate $5 each, we would be able to purchase a duffel bag.

Answer: Because we don’t know which child exactly is getting one of these bags. It will be left up to the social workers. We don’t know if they are a girl or a boy, a toddler, a child or a teen. We don’t know what size clothing they wear, or what style of clothing they like. Including a stuffed animal, coloring book and crayons gives something of their own to that child. Something fun, but simple, and brand new. Something they don’t have to share with the foster children, or get used items, something to call their own. It then occurred to me that gift cards could be added to the duffel bags, so they could go buy some clothes, socks, shoes, or school supplies!

The gift cards could be for Wal-Mart, Target, or even a pre paid “credit/debit card.” We think the amount should be between $10-$25. If you feel like donating a gift card, please contact Jackie Fogelson or Amanda Dahmes.

How do I donate?
You can donate directly through this website, or give the money to Jackie or Amanda and we’ll use our debit cards to donate the money, within the 90 day period. We appreciate your help!

Thank you,
Jackie Fogelson and Amanda Dahmes
The Duffel Bag Project

**Sorry for any confusion or misunderstanding, as duffle/duffel bag is spelt wrong. It can’t be changed on the fundraising website.

Update: 2/3/2017

I, Jackie, have been under the impression, that Together We Rise, a non-profit company that this project is made possible through, had made contact with Douglas County Social Services, as that is what they said they would do.

I received an email from Jennifer McLaughlin of Douglas County Social Services, after reading The Echo Press Story on 2/3/2017: “At this time we feel we have a sufficient supply of comfort items of stuffed animals, small lap quilts and personal hygiene items as well as a supply of empty bags to last us for some time to come. When we get a child into care at this time, we have the empty duffle bags and the other donations we have gotten for the hygiene kits can be added to them if appropriate. At this time we have maxed out the storage space that we have available and while we thank you greatly for your investment in the project, at this time we would have concerns about the ability to store and distribute additional donations.”

Douglas County WILL NOT be taking our donations, so these duffel bags will be going to other counties in the West Central Area. THESE CHILDREN MATTER TOO!MN-ADOPT-Minnesota-Regions3-600x600

Thank you to everyone that has donated, as we have surpassed our $ 375 goal!!! We are still looking for donations to purchase $10-$20 gift cards or pre-paid debit/cards to also put in the duffel bags. Please contact Amanda Dahmes or myself Jackie Marie if you’re interested in donating a gift card or money to purchase a gift card.