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Jan. 1, 1970

Grand Rapids volunteers stuff 500 backpacks in effort to comfort new foster children

About 40 volunteers packed Comfort Cases for foster children in Michigan on Dec. 20, 2023. Stuffing nearly 500 backpacks, each case contains a new pair of pajamas, toiletries, a stuffed animal and other items to comfort a foster child on their first night with their foster families. (Alex Bernhardt/WWMT)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A group of 40 volunteers took to Grand Rapids Wednesday with one goal in mind: making sure foster children are comforted on their first night with their new foster families.

Comfort Cases, a non-profit organization, and HAP CareSource, a nationally recognized nonprofit, partnered to host a packing party to stuff 500 backpacks with care items for Michigan’s foster children.

“Each of the bags has personal hygiene items of stuff,” Rob Scheer, founder of Comfort Cases, said. “There’s lotion, shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, a toothbrush. They each get a brand new pair of pajamas with the tag on it, they get a book, they get a stuffie, a blanket, and they even get an activity.”

Carrying a trash bag with all his belongings, Scheer entered the foster care system in 1979. It was the trash bag that sparked the idea for Comfort Cases.

“You have to realize the fact that kids come into foster care because of choices other people made,” Scheer said. “We have the choice of how we start them off, and handing a child a trash bag, which we know was made to put trash in, not children’s clothing… it is our responsibility, it is our social responsibility, to take care of our children. They belong to us, and we have to make their future brighter.”

Out of the 500 cases packed Wednesday, Samaritas of West Michigan is expected to take 250 Comfort Cases for local foster children.

For Program Manager Hope James, she enjoys the comfort cases because they’re not generic.

“They are based on age and size, so that each child doesn’t get a pair of pajamas that’s the wrong size for them,” James said. “But they have cases for infants who need pacifiers, who need bottles, you need different diapers, different things, and the onesies that fit them, and then we have our older kids where a 17-year-old needs an entirely different set of things. So, they’re specifically providing what each child at each age might need.”

Overall, James was excited to see the community come together to support families and local foster children in need.

“I love to see community volunteers come and get together and step up and be ready to support families, support children, help our community families get stronger, help our kids in the community be safer,” James said. “So, this is just exciting to be able to get these items and know that they are going to be put to good use and they’re going to support families and children.”

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