A Hummel Report InvestigationLast month 2,500 foster children in Rhode Island and Massachusetts received duffel bag full of gifts with their name monogrammed on the side - compliments of an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that began working on this year’s holiday delivery last summer. Bags of Hope was founded by a couple whose experience adopting five children of their own drives them to want all foster children find a permanent home.
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If you think you have a lot of wrapping to do around the holidays - come take a look as hundreds of volunteers gather over several weeks leading up to Christmas to wrap, assemble and distribute more than 10,000 gifts. The destination: foster children in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Welcome to Bags of Hope, a non-profit volunteer organization that this year provided 2,500 monogrammed and customized bags, full of gifts to children awaiting adoption. The program was started four years by Kim Gagne and her husband John after they adopted their first child - a boy - five years ago.
Kim: ``We were amazed at the stories the social workers told of going into kids’ homes and removing them from their biological families because of all different reasons. And they talked about how so many kids…they only have a few minutes because usually it’s a very escalated situations when they remove kids, and so they’ll grab a trash bag, throw those child’s belongings into that trash bag.’’
John: ``The things that are theirs, are in a garbage bag.’’
Kim: ``We loaded him in the car, we were getting everything to go and the foster mom came to the door and she said: `Oh I’ve got one more thing for you’ and she handed me a trash bag, with all of his belongings in it.’’
John: ``When you look at the whole picture about what’s happening to those kids and the place of vulnerability that they’re in, the trauma of what they’re going through, a lot of times either not feeling loved or wanted - and then you take what’s important to them and now it’s disguised as trash.’’
That moment planted the seeds for a project that began with 100 bags four years ago; it grew to 1,000 last year and 2,500 this year.
Rachel McBride came on board two years ago, handling the administrative end of the operation. She organizes the gifts by gender and age, and makes sure each matches - exactly - the child it is supposed to go to.
Rachel: ``We know that a lot of these children, this is all they’re going to open on Christmas morning - and that’s why it’s so important to us to never jeopardize the quality of the items in the bag. They would be something that we would give to our own children, or even better quality than our own children.’’
Ground Zero is His Providence Church, located in Seekonk, and the project relies entirely on volunteers and donations. This year two dozen churches across the region have members who donated $25 for an ornament with a child’s name and age on it. That pays for a monogrammed bag and all the gifts inside.
Then, there are the bags: thousands of them. The first year Frank and Sandy Kowalik offered to donate and monogram each bag. The couple, which owns Sandy Lane Sports in Warwick, knew the Gagnes from church and volunteered when they heard about Bags of Hope. When the numbers grew dramatically the Kowaliks provided bags at cost and still continue to monogram every one of the bags. It takes an average of five minutes to complete each one.
At 2,500 bags, you do the math on how much of their time they’ve donated.