The Dorcas Society of the Jamestown Seventh-day Adventist Church works all year to help out those in need. Specifically, they meet monthly during nicer weather to put together Bags of Love for G.A. Family Services Foster Care Program. Then, over the winter, they are busy making projects to raise funds for the contents of those bags.
"We make lots of towels, doilies, baby bonnets and booties, purses and blankets to sell at Country Ladies in Stow. This makes us some money to buy toiletries and school supplies for the Bags of Love," said group member Barb Shrecengost. "We try to find clean kids' books and teddy bears and other stuffed animals at garage sales too. Those are nice for the younger kids."
The Bags of Love are donated to the foster care program, which then gives them to children entering care. Sometimes children only have the clothes on their backs when they are removed from their homes. Regardless of why a child is placed in foster care though, their safety and comfort is the primary concern. Having something as simple as a bag of random items all to themselves can be a blessing.
Pictured, from left: Dianna Nordstrom, Jemima Stutzman and Barb Shrecengost, members of the Dorcas Society of the Jamestown Seventh-day Adventist Church, gather their Bags of Love, to be donated to children in the G.A. Family Services Foster Care Program.
"Getting a nice bag with a blanket, winter hat and toothbrush may seem silly, but the kids really appreciate that someone made the effort to help them out during a very difficult time in their lives," said Samantha Vanstrom, program manager for the Jamestown office. "Funds are limited, so donations like these bags are a wonderful way to get the community involved in helping the kids we serve."
At their last meeting for the year, Shrecengost was joined by group leader and head seamstress Jemima Stutzman and Dianna Nordstrom. Two other members, Roseanne Babcock and Clara Brown, were unable to join them that day. All the ladies attend the church and help with collecting donations for projects and supplies year round. All of the bags and some of the blankets are handmade.
Loving others and giving to those without is their driving force. "We're following Jesus' example of loving everyone, even if they don't seem to love you back. We're trying to help make this world a better place," said Nordstrom.
The Bags of Love project started three years ago when Shrecengost's daughter introduced the idea from her friend who worked for Chautauqua County Department of Social Services. She knew the ladies were looking for a project to help people in need in the area, and foster care has many needs that unfortunately often go unmet. The ladies loved the idea and have been working hard ever since. Each month, from April to October, they put together between six and 10 Bags of Love for both younger kids and teens. They differentiate the two age groups because although a six year old would love to find a toy truck in their bag, teens tend to prefer more age appropriate items.
The bags are distributed to all three of GA Family Services' Therapeutic Foster Care Program offices in Jamestown, West Seneca and Chaffee, which provide for more than 70 youth. As part of Lutheran, it is a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the lives of young people.
Foster care youth live with local families while they get the assistance they and their families need in order for the children to return home or continue on to adoption or other appropriate living arrangements. Many foster families are also looking to provide forever homes for the right child freed for adoption. Throughout the whole process, whether it is temporary foster care or adoption, GA Family Services provides training and support for all of its foster families so that they can provide a loving, nurturing environment for the children in care.
If you are interested in helping local youth by becoming a foster parent or making a donation, contact the Jamestown Foster Care Program at 708-6161.
For more information about the Dorcas Society community outreach program, call 484-2065.