30 May 2009

From The Mountain Telegraph

Nonprofit Is Providing Duffle Bags of Personal Items For Children Ordered Taken From Their Homes
Written by Ashley Bergen
Thursday, 28 May 2009 09:40

When abused and neglected children are taken from their homes, almost all the time they leave with little more than the clothes on their back.

That's according to Jana May, volunteer coordinator for the Rio Grande Valley Court Appointed Special Advocates, known as CASA, which covers Torrance County.

"The kids are always traumatized," May said. "They're in a strange place with strangers."

Now, with help from the nonprofit My Stuff Bags Foundation of California, these Torrance County children will have a duffle bag filled with new stuff. The foundation donated four large boxes of blue duffles filled with toys, blankets and toiletries for teenagers and younger children.

The items, even the bag, are a useful gift to the children arriving at a shelter or foster homes, May said.

"It gives the children something to put their stuff in besides a paper sack," May said. "And they seem to really like them. The bags are going quick."

CASA volunteers work with the children, their families, teachers, therapists and the court system for the safety and protection of children who have been removed from their homes.

Some of the My Stuff Bags have also been given to children in Socorro and Sierra counties. They are a helpful tool in establishing a relationship between the child and their advocate, May said.

"The bags are a good tool to send with the (advocates) the first time they meet the child," May said. "It's an ice breaker and it helps jump-start that relationship."

The Rio Grande Valley CASA volunteers advocate for more than 100 children each year. There are currently 11 cases in Torrance County the advocates are working on.

The My Stuff Bags program was established in 1998, and nearly all the clothing, school supplies, books, games, stuffed animals, toiletry items and handmade blankets are donated. The program runs in 49 states and has delivered more than 350,000 My Stuff Bags at no charge to more than 1,200 nonprofit organizations since it began.

Those interested in donating children's items or funding are asked to visit www.mystuffbags.org, or contact the My Stuff Bags Foundation at 866-3MY-STUFF.

The Rio Grande Valley CASA is looking for volunteers to become advocates. For more information call 832-6328 or 350-4178.

One advocate, Whitney von Kutzleben, was recently awarded Outstanding Volunteer by Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, at its Community Champions Awards dinner on May 7 in Albuquerque.

The program stated she was instrumental in getting five young boys adopted and made sure they were in continuous foster care until they found a permanent home. At the same time, she took on another child at a time when there wasn't anyone else.

As a community champion, von Kutzleben received a $1,000 grant, which she designated to the Rio Grande Valley CASA.


A.Fanny said...

Sounds like a worthy effort - thanks for educating us'ns.

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