Drive to Help Foster Kids Exceeds Goal
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER -- About 250 children - encompassing all of the foster children in Leominster, Fitchburg, and most of the surrounding towns - will be able to go back to school with a brand new backpack filled with school supplies thanks to the kindness of area residents they’ll likely never meet.
Supplies for Success, a new donation drive from the local nonprofit Fostering Change, Inc., originally sought to collect just 200 backpacks. That was the number that would meet the needs of all of Leominster and Fitchburg’s foster children, Fostering Change founder Lindsey English said.
English said she was confident there would be enough people to donate items. What she didn’t count on was just how generous people were going to be.
“People came out in droves,” she said. “We had an Amazon wish list set up so people would know what to buy and we had people purchasing over $500 worth of stuff.”
Kimilee Gile of Leominster was the top individual donor, with over $600 worth of backpacks, notebooks, crayons, and other back-to-school essentials being paid for by her.
“I’m not a foster child, there are no foster children in my family, but kids need love,” Gile said. “They need to know someone cares, especially these kids, who are already having such a tough start.”
As foster parents often have multiple children entering and exiting their lives on a regular basis, English explained that it can be difficult for many to be able to pay for everything a young student needs to achieve at school.
Donated items will be distributed to children from Gardner, Lunenburg, Ashburnham, Templeton, and Winchendon, but Fostering Change is also planning to save any unclaimed items for any foster student needs that might arise during the school year.
Donations were available for pickup in Leominster on Saturday. Wendy Dudek, a foster mother from Fitchburg, claimed a backpack for her 15-year-old foster son, who has lived with her for the last year, as well as her five-year-old and six-year-old adopted children.
“There are a lot of people who do go out and buy things for foster kids like they’re their own kids, but this does take a huge burden off because it’s one less thing you have to do when there are already all of these other costs like clothes, shoes, toys, and books,” she said.
Given this year’s success, English said she plans to organize Supplies for Success again next year and hopes to work again with many of the local residents and businesses she partnered with this summer.
“From myself, my board, and the 250 kids, we want them all to know we have a huge, heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of them because we could not have done this had they not stepped up,” she said. “These kids are going to have more of a chance because they did something as simple as donating a few colored pencils.”
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