Fill a backpack to help a child in crisis
Local nonprofit Project PACK, Glenwood Medical Associates and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office are coming together to help children coping with domestic violence — one backpack at a time.
Project PACK, which stands for Pack A Crisis Kit, is a mom-and-pop style nonprofit run by Amber Wissing, Trina Epp and Mandy Chamberlain under the umbrella of the Two Rivers Community Foundation. Their goal: to build emergency kits for children affected by domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault or other crises.
The project began two years ago when Wissing, a business manager for Glenwood Springs dentist Corey Johnson, was approached by several victim advocate workers asking for donations of toothbrushes. “I said, ‘Well sure we can get you some toothbrushes. But I bet we could do better than just toothbrushes. Say it’s 3 in the morning and you’ve got some kids that can’t go back to their house — what would you want to give them?’”
Thus Project PACK was born.
Wissing, Epp and Chamberlain dole out packing lists and generic backpacks to interested donors. The packing lists cover everything a child needs in the first 24-48 hours after a traumatic event, including toiletries, changes of clothes, pajamas, socks, underwear, blankets and water bottles.
Bags are customized for specific ages and genders, including toys and stuffed animals for younger children and school supplies for teenagers. Baby-specific packing lists include formula, diapers, diaper cream, onesies, hats, pacifiers and changing pads. Completed packs are stored distributed by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which is often has the first contact with victims immediately after an incident.
For the rest of the holiday season, people interested can stop by the waiting room of Glenwood Medical Associates at 1830 Blake Ave. in Glenwood to build and donate a crisis pack of their own.
The goal of the drive is to fill enough packs to stock a new storage facility at River Bridge, a nearby child advocacy center.
“River Bridge services about 200 kids a year, but it has never had a storage facility to keep backpacks on hand,” said Rachel Rippy of Glenwood Medical Associates. “Until now, they’ve had to go to the sheriff’s office every time a kid needs a pack.” She estimates it will take roughly 75 packs to fill the new unit, enough to last a full year.
“Not every child needs a full pack,” said Wissing. “Some just need a toothbrush or a pair of pants.”
Participants can opt to donate a single item or fill an entire pack by picking a hangtag off of the tree set up at the Glenwood Medical office. Some tags list individual items, such as winter coats, hats, socks, mittens or snow boots. “We need any age, any size, any gender,” Wissing said. Participants choose a tag, purchase the corresponding item new, and return it to the Glenwood Medical Associates office.
Other tags feature a complete packing list along with an age and gender profile — anything from 6-month old girl to 15-year-old boy. Donors choose a tag and a free backpack, buy the items on the list, and return the filled backpack to the medical offices.
“It costs anywhere from $30 to $50 to fill a backpack,” said Wissing. “But the local community has been quite generous and creative in filling backpacks. Many have gone beyond the packing list, donating new toys, journals, stuffed animals, soccer balls, art projects and other fun items.”
Wising emphasized that parents can — and should — bring their kids along to donate.
“We’ve had a lot of people donate together as a family,” she said. “The kids can choose to fill backpacks for other children their own age, which makes the process of choosing and packing the items more fun and personal.”
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