SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

 

#NotHereNotOurKids

Foster Stitches Project

Imagine you are a 10-year-old girl. School is the best part of your day; this is the place you feel most safe and are given a meal to fill your stomach that aches of hunger. Your stresses are a lost thought...where for a couple hours a day, you don't have to worry about the reactions or situations your mom and her boyfriend place you in. You are never sure of what will happen on the outside of your bedroom door, who will be on the other side, and what they are doing or will do to you. Circumstances arise constantly, and one day the police take your mom and her boyfriend to jail for drugs. Another family is awaiting your arrival, to bring you to a home that isn’t yours, alone, without all the things that make you, you. Because of the drugs, everything in your home is contaminated. You must leave your clothes, your favorite stuffed animal, your backpack. You are left afraid and scared, wishing you had one piece of comfort amongst all the unknowns.

In Kandiyohi County, there are children who live this story in real life more often than we know. Foster families try to make those first uncertain hours and days comfortable amidst the trauma. A group called Foster Stitches, an assembly of foster families, has banded together to try to collect clothing, equipment, and duffle bags together to support children entering foster care in Kandiyohi County. Currently, the group has a small donated space where they store totes of these items to aid in emergency placements. All activities within Foster Stiches are donated and volunteered, including trying to emergently sort out a bundle of items for a child getting placed into a foster home. “I do the best I can when packing a bag for a child, but I don’t know their preferences. I don’t know what might trigger bad memories and I can send the wrong things,” shares Ashley Hanson, a foster mom who helps lead Foster Stitches. “We would love to set up a confidential store where the kids could pick out their things for themselves. Give them some choice and control back in a really hard situation.”

This wish reached the ears of the Willmar Area Women’s Fund whose work includes trauma informed care. It instantly resonated with the mission of both the Women’s Fund and the Willmar Area Community Foundation (WACF), so the brainstorming began. Soon, pieces of the puzzle came together, and a potential solution was at hand. Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar agreed to fiscal host the project so charitable funds could be used. The Willmar Ten Investors group offered a space that fit the needs at a deep discount for the first two years to see if the idea could work. “$20,000 in funding and some volunteers are needed to bring this project fully to life. Our Women’s Fund and the WACF are committed to being part of that but we will need help from others who share our belief that we can, and must, do better for our kids” says Sara Carlson, WACF Executive Director. “Clean donations of contemporary items for children and teens; gift cards to fill gaps in available items; new underwear and socks; new backpacks or duffle bags…it all helps make a really traumatic situation just a bit better. It shows foster families that we care about the work they do and signals that this community is full of caring, kind adults. We can’t all be foster parents, but we all can help children who find themselves in these circumstances.”

Want to be a part of the change? 

Below are some ways in which you can help! Together we can create the pathway that builds community, one step at a time.

  • Gifts can be made directly to the Willmar Area Women’s Fund. Please add to the comment box or memo line “Foster Stitches” to direct your gift to this project. All donations to the Women’s Fund with the Foster Stitches memo, will be directed to Bethel Lutheran Church to propel the project forward.

  • For mailed gifts, please address directly to the Willmar Area Community Foundation c/o Foster Stitches 1601 East Highway 12, Suite 9 Willmar, MN 56201. Checks can be made out to the Willmar Area Women’s Fund with the memo Foster Stitches.

  • For the 2021 holiday season, the Women’s Fund will be hosting a gift card drive to help fill gaps in what children need that isn’t available in the store. You can mail your gift card to the WACF offices and we will get them to Foster Stitches for you. Watch for more updates soon!

  • Have items to donate? Willing to wash clothing donations, sort and hang them up or help clean items? Please reach out to Foster Stitches via their Facebook page to volunteer your time.

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