Providing the basics for kids in need
After a season of generous giving and receiving for many in the community, it can be easy to forget that there are families who are lacking everyday essentials like hygiene supplies.
For youth in the schools, this can be especially difficult. In 2017, a program called Kits For Kids was established to help meet the needs of students and families who were in need of these basic items.
The program originated in 2006 at the Bend Presbyterian Church. When the Family Access Network, or FAN, expanded to Prineville, they reached out to the Prineville Presbyterian Church to take over providing for the needs of local students. The program is facilitated in conjunction with the FAN advocates in the schools and the Presbyterian Church.
Glenda Janssen, who is one of the main contacts for the local Kits for Kids project, explained that in April 2017, the First Presbyterian Church in Bend contacted Prineville Presbyterian Church to help support their program.
"They had been asked by Crook County Schools to provide this same service, and they were a little overwhelmed because they already had hundreds and hundreds of kids they were providing for in Bend," Janssen said.
When they reached out, the members of the Prineville congregation were happy to help.
"Of course we said yes," she added. "And how can you say no to helping kids?"
Suzanne Jackson, also a member of the Prineville Presbyterian Church, has considered herself a sidekick to Janssen for several years in the Kits for Kids project. Jackson also attended the first "meeting of the mind" at the Bend Presbyterian Church to see how the local church could serve Prineville's families in need — in particular, those needing basics like shampoo and toothbrushes.
"They had already worked with the FAN network, and we took the ball and began running with it," Jackson said. "As far as members of the Prineville Presbyterian are concerned, those who could sew, sewed bags for stuffing, those who could stuff, stuffed all the articles Glenda ordered from Dollar Store. She set up a round-robin event in the sanctuary and 10-15 gals and men showed up and within 15 minutes."
Jackson added that the bags were soon delivered to the elementary schools in Prineville. The FAN advocates then discreetly distributed the bags to identified students and families. "We all came together to serve those who were in need — a win-win for all the families involved. Us and them," Jackson concluded.
Traci Peterson is the FAN advocate for Crook County High School.
"This has been a great partnership with Prineville Presbyterian Church," Peterson said. "Their help has made a huge impact on FAN, helping families by providing hygiene supplies. It frees up a little extra money for families to buy some extra food or other needed basic items."Peterson added that these items also help with students' self-esteem and encourage social interaction.
Supplies are packed into sturdy drawstring bags sewn by volunteers. Filled bags are distributed to the FAN advocates in the schools. The fabric has to be denim or upholstery-weight fabric. Once the bags are filled with hygiene supplies, they weigh approximately 15 pounds.
"We have sewing groups, church groups and ladies in the church who sew or donate fabric," Janssen said. "They come to us with these bags. They are amazing. Some of them from the quilt club are just works of art. They are beautiful. It's just fun to see how different they all are."
Janssen said that the FAN advocates keep the bags on reserve until they identify a child in need, and then a bag is sent home with the parents of that child. In 2017-2018, Kits For Kids provided 96 bags for the three schools, which included elementary and middle school. This past year they expanded to include Crook County High School, Pioneer Alternative High School, Larson Learning Center and Head Start.
"We will need about 150 bags this year, so we are reaching out to the community for sewing help," she said.
Initially, the Bend Presbyterian Church gave the Kits For Kids project in Prineville $500 seed money. The Prineville Presbyterian Church has also applied for grants from the Perrin Family Foundation and Central Oregon Association of Realtors (COAR) and received $1500 from each the first year.
"We have been very frugal, and we don't ever waste a penny. We are in good shape at this point," Janssen said.
Prineville Presbyterian Church has received subsequent grants each year from COAR, and they continue to receive support from the Perrin Family Foundation.
"This last fall, we applied again and received $500 from COAR, and Perrin Family Foundation came through with $1862," Janssen said.
The church has a bag stuffing day in October, and Janssen is always looking for volunteers. They put together 48 bags each time, and they provide 100 to140 bags per year, depending on need. They purchase the items at Dollar Tree in Prineville with the money from the donations and grants.
"Some years the need is more, and some years the need is less," Janssen said.
She has been impressed by the Prineville community.
"It's the first community that I have ever lived in where there was so much involvement — volunteer groups of people just pitching in and doing extraordinary things," she said. "You can't help but be drawn into it and be part of it. It is so rewarding."
Kits For Kids is always in need of the following supplies:
Laundry soap, 1 - 64 oz. container (liquid)
Dish soap, 1 - 30 oz. bottle (liquid)
Toilet paper, 1 package (4 rolls wrapped)
Paper towels, 1 wrapped roll
Shampoo, 1 - 15 oz. bottle
Deodorant, 2 sticks (1 for men/1 for women)
Toothpaste, 2 tubes (4.6 oz. each)
Bar soap, 2 bars (place in zip lock bag to contain fragrance)
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