Prior to learning about children in foster care, students at Western Row might not have put their backpack on the list of things for which they are thankful. That's changed after Jen Brunsman, Kelly Gholz, Sarah Greulich's and Emily Matthews third grade classes met met with Krista Lorenz and Carrie Bird, the founder and treasurer of Warm Welcomes - a nonprofit that Lorenz and her family started in 2013 after "having our eyes and hearts forever opened to the needs of children in foster care during our time as a foster family."
Warm Welcomes was built out of the need to raise awareness of the nearly 400,000 children in foster care in the US, and to develop connections between children and their communities, schools, and churches. "It is our hope that simple signs of support, encouragement, and being loved and valued by those around you, will help build children up in a positive way," explained Lorenz.
Western Row students learned that many foster care children carry their belongings in a trash bag. "We believe that the use of trash bags to transport a child's only belongings is further insult to a vulnerable child. So, we need your help with this," Lorenz told the Western Row students.
The students were excited to take up the charge. Instead of trash bags, the third graders helped the organization fill "Welcome Bags' - which are filled with comfort and necessity items and are given to children (ages 0-18) as they are transitioned into a foster placement. Welcome Bags are delivered year round to local children, and can be used again when going to a new home instead of a trash bag.
Students sponsored a bags for a child who is their age, and worked on fleece blankets that could be added to the bags.
"We wanted our students to have an opportunity to make a difference in the community. They couldn't wait to tie knots on a blanket that would be in a bag. One student was overheard telling a classmate they were going to use their allowance to buy a stuffed animal this weekend to donate. As teachers we are so proud of our classes and can't wait to see them get involved with Warm Welcomes," said Kelly Gholz, Western Row Elementary teacher.