Thanks to Altrusa International of Salina, daily life is now a little easier for some youth in foster care who are navigating stressful life changes.
When Brenda Smith learned that foster children often only receive two trash bags to transport their personal belongings, she was moved to help find a better way for these kids to keep and carry what they own.
“That just spoke to my heart,” she said.
Smith, who is the service chair for Altrusa, did some digging and learned about the Sweet Case duffel bag program administered by a national nonprofit called Together We Rise. With the help of sponsors and volunteers, they provide children in foster care with decorated duffel bags, so they’ll feel like kids, not trash.
“I thought, ‘we need to do duffel bags for these kids so they have something to call their own,’” Smith said.
Smith said her Altrusa club decided to purchase bags to donate locally to the foster program at Saint Francis Ministries. Each duffel, which costs $25, is stuffed with a teddy bear, a blanket, a hygiene kit, a coloring book and crayons. With $250 of their own and a $250 grant from the Greater Salina Community Foundation, Altrusa was able to purchase and donate 20 bags for Saint Francis.
“This type of project always touches my heart due to the huge impact it makes on a vulnerable child’s life,” said Jai Hedrick, Saint Francis development officer. “These Sweet Cases may be given to a child when they have just left everything they have ever known and may feel like they have no control over the situation. The personalized bag shows the child that someone thought enough of them to take the time to decorate the bag. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
“Our organization’s main mission is literacy,” said Smith. “If a child feels good about themselves, then they’re going to want to read, and they’re going to want to learn. Hopefully, this will make these children feel a little better about themselves and it will help them in school and help them continue to excel. It’s something that’s theirs, something they get to keep.”
Altrusa International of Salina Inc. celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2019. Their club’s areas of hands-on service include literacy projects, domestic violence prevention, cancer outreach and international relations.