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Foster children to receive bags filled with goods this spring through fundraiser

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Some kids are placed in foster care so quickly that they don't have time to bring along their favorite toy or blanket. Sometimes they have to quickly fill a garbage bag with as much as they can, not knowing when or if they would ever go home again.

But this spring, 120 foster kids in southwest North Dakota will be given a special bag with things they can call their own thanks to the Region VIII Foster Care and Adoption Recruitment & Retention Coalition.

The coalition has teamed up with Savannah Havelka, a consultant for Thirty-One—a company that specializes in totes and bags—to offer people the opportunity to sponsor a tote that will go to a child filled with items specific to their age and gender.

"I started Thirty-One to do stuff like this," said Havelka. "This is what I love. I love to give back to our community and be able to touch those lives of those kiddos and work with other organizations in our community."

After they have reached their goal they will order bags consisting of backpacks or totes—depending on ages and gender.

"That's kind of why we wanted to do a variety of styles of bags, too, because ... maybe the older kids want a backpack and whatever fits them," said Havelka. "This kind of gives them a chance to pick out what they want and it even makes it more personal to them and they can take more ownership over their bag as well."

For $30, someone can sponsor a bag that goes to a child currently in foster care in Dunn, Billings, Golden Valley, Slope, Bowman, Adams, Hettinger and Stark counties. Those bags will then be filled with essentials and things that the child can take with them once they leave the foster care, things like blankets and stuffed animals.

"That is one reason that I am very passionate about this because these are all kids in our backyard," said Chantelle Kuntz, coalition chairman. "We're not sending these half-way across the state. You are sponsoring these for a kid that might literally live up the street from you and you have no idea. It is kids in your community."

Foster children are sometimes only placed in care temporarily, which can sometimes lead to adoption.

Deb Schweitzer and her husband Todd have added two children into their family through foster care.

The couple has been fostering for around 29 years and have loved over 150 foster children so far. Deb said a majority of them came to her home with very little, or in some cases nothing.

She said sometimes the belongings of the children are even considered evidence or have to be tested—which means even the clothes they wear to her home have to be replaced.

"When you lose your family, even if it's only temporary, (it's hard)," she said. " These poor kids want something that reminds them of their family or something that's theirs. It's not that you need things but to feel validated."

One of her current foster children is very attached to a blanket she was given after she was removed from her home. Schweitzer said when she gets nervous she wants her blanket to feel safe.

The group currently has 80 bags sponsored which means they have another 40 to go until they reach their goal of providing a bag to every child currently in foster care in southwestern North Dakota. Kuntz said she is not worried about hitting the goal by April 7 because of the kindness of people in the region.

"I feel like our community is strong ... and are always reaching out and helping each other," she said. "That's a very big benefit to our region because we have a lot of smaller counties and they back each other. There are so many generous people."

For more information on sponsoring a bag contact Savannah Havelka at 218-232-2594 or skhavelka@gmail.com.

For more information on the coalition visit Region VIII Foster Care and Adoption Recruitment & Retention Coalition on Facebook or go to their website at region8fcarr.wixsite.com/website.