That’s My Bag annually provides over 500 children in Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington counties who are removed from their homes or enter the foster care system with a backpack that includes a blanket, clothes, undergarments, socks, personal hygiene items, books and journals, stuffed animals, and toys. The bags are organized and sorted by age group and sex ranging from infant to teenager.
Hundreds of children are removed from their homes each year in Northwest Arkansas because of neglect or abuse. These children are placed in foster care by the Department of Health and Human Services. Often times, these children aren’t able to bring many, if any, personal items with them because all items immediately become evidence.
The Junior League of Northwest Arkansas saw an opportunity in 2002 to help ease this transition for children. Members developed That’s My Bag to provide displaced children with a backpack filled with common necessities. That’s My Bag gives these children not only the essentials but also a piece of comfort in a place that is foreign to them. The Junior League provides a continuous stock of bags and items to meet the need as children in crisis enter foster care or temporary custody.
Throughout the 15 years of the program, we have been able to expand to additional counties in Northwest Arkansas as well as evolve the program overall. Originally the program was implemented by a small committee delivering bags with the help of all members donating travel size toiletries and other items and then stuffing the bags as a part of either General Meetings or sporadic packing days as needed. In 2014 the work of the committee transitioned to become the New Member Project so that as women began their first year with JLNWA they could immediately dive into a hands-on project and become connected to the strong work our League does to raise awareness about domestic violence and ultimately break the cycle.
“You can’t imagine the impact that something as small as a new backpack full of clothes, toiletries, and a toy can have on a child that has been removed from an abusive home,” said Eileen Jennings, past JLNWA President. “We are helping remove some of the barriers that child faces against developing their potential and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.”
You can help by donating new toiletry items, stuffed animals, books, bags and basic clothing or other items. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.