Residents of Haviland Care Center and senior citizens from the Kiowa County Senior Center in Greensburg joined forces to fill 150 duffel bags with basic care items for foster children in Kansas.

Some of the care items and bags will stay in Kiowa County, the rest will go to assist foster children at the Living Water Ranch, Flint Hills Foster Teen Camps and St. Francis placement services.

The group of volunteers, which met at the Haviland Care Center on May 17, packed new pillows (along with new pillowcases made by the seniors), new towels, a notebook and a toothbrush. The local emergency preparedness board purchased tags so each child may put their name on their own bag.

“We don’t want the bag to be completely full,” said Karel Page, administrator of Haviland Care Center. “We want to leave room for the items they bring from their home to be added as well.”

The duffel bag project is an effort to make sure each child in the state's foster care system has a suitcase of sorts to put their clothes in, as most are so quickly taken out of their homes that the few personal items they have are just thrown in black garbage bags. Enough items were collected in Kiowa County to fill 200 bags.

The project is part of an annual community project at the Haviland Care Center, which is owned by Mission Health. Several other county health providers and community individuals joined in support of the project. Dr. Brockington, a dentist with 360 Dental Care in Greensburg, provided the toothbrushes.

“We just want to thank everyone who gave in any way to help make this project happen,” Page said. “We so appreciate it and I know the kids will, too.”

Page, who volunteers at Living Water Ranch, Flint Hills Foster Teen Camps during the summer, has seen firsthand the need every year when foster kids come to camp with everything they own in a trash bags. Staff at the Flint Hills Foster Teen Camps (FHFTC) has been reaching out to teens who have been abused, neglected and abandoned and find themselves in the state foster care system in Kansas for many years. FHFTC is much more than a camping experience, however. The organization was established in 2009 to positively impact the lives of foster teens by providing a place where they are safe and can relax from the stress of their uncertain lives while experiencing activities that allow them to be kids, build trust and find hope.

Of the 200 bags assembled last week, the items for 50 bags were held back for any child in foster care in Kiowa County. These will be stored at the new health department office in Greensburg, unassembled, because it is easier to store and assemble them as needed.

Packed bags for the camp were delivered to FHFTC near Olsburg on May 18 where recipients were excited to receive them, Page said.