The duffel bags have been handed out to children through many groups in southeast Wisconsin, including law enforcement agencies, shelters, foster care families, and camps for abused children.
Heather Lojseski, a foster parent herself, started the program when she realized that foster children often needed to leave their homes quickly and the few personal belongings they could bring with them were often thrown in trash bags.
“If you are a kid and you are walking out of your home with only a trash bag, what kind of message are we sending?” Lojeski said. “So we started duffels for kids.”
The bags are given to children in crisis, and come with personal care and comfort items like blankets, books, and stuffed animals.
“We’ve heard from many parents and law enforcement officers that the kids cling to those bags,” Lojeski said.
One foster mom told Lojeski that their three-year-old foster child would not part with the stuffed animal and blanket they had received through the program.
“He was telling people, ‘This is mine you can’t have it,'” Lojeski said.
Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke said passing out the duffel bags to children has been helpful because it helps the officers establish trust with the children during unfortunate situations.
“When we are dealing with incidents when children are not the victims and the kids are on the sidelines,” Marschke said. “It helps us take care of the kids when we are trying to taking care of business.”
The officers also passed them out to children effected by a recent apartment fire.
“It helped establish trust between the child and the law enforcement officer because it takes their mind off of the incident. So when they are un-zipping the duffel bag to see what’s inside…it’s a nice thing in an unfortunate situation,” Marschke said.
Lojeski is always looking for donations to fill the bags. Currently they are looking for book donations. Community members can make a donation through the month of December through Barnes & Noble, which has purchased 782 books for the program. The program hopes to collect 2,100 books for 2015.
To make a donation, you can stop by the Barnes & Noble, which is located at 2710 S. Green Bay Rd.