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Nothing of their own

Parent rounds up donations for stuffed toys and people to sew tote bags and diaper bags for foster kids coming into the system

Out of a small corner in her garage, Debbie Beck, president of the Foster Parents Group, manages a diaper/backpack program that assures children forced into foster care will have something to hold on to.

Beck, a foster parent herself with experience in the volatile world of foster child care, saw the need and went into action.

I know that the need is out there. When kids come into care, a lot of times they don't have anything ' not even a favorite stuffed animal ' in their possession, said Beck. It is nobody's fault; it's just a need we have that we are trying to take care of.

Beck got the idea to start the diaper/backpack program about a year ago, around August, with the realization of how many kids blow through the system without anything to call their own. She began searching yard sales and secondhand stores around the valley for backpacks and diaper bags to fill with items for the children.

Not long after, the idea caught on and now almost every bag is new, and all are collected by donation. With the volunteer help of the Southern Oregon Stitchers and the Uplift Group of the First Baptist Church in White City, Beck has been able to supply a children's services agency with a renewable, categorized and age-appropriate inventory of 60 bags at all times, with at least three available for each age group.

It was more about the feeling ' about how the kids feel about having nothing, she said. It's hard for us to realize, we take it so for granted, how important material possessions become and how important a simple bag becomes to these children.

Essential items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, toiletry items, bottles, pacifiers, T-shirts, underwear, knitted winter gloves and hats and, for the older kids, deodorant, diaries and much more are collected.

When they come under the jurisdiction of children's services, foster children don't always come from a home; sometimes they will be picked up at a hospital or bus stop. Beck tries to include a blanket and/or small pillow and a stuffed animal in every bag, although it is sometimes hard to keep up with the demand.

The tote bag is theirs forever ... some of the kids have never even had anything new before, said Liz Hampton of the Southern Oregon Stitchers, a group that sews and fills tote bags for the diaper/backpack program.

Beck credits much of the program's success to the love and support of family, her mother and kids, the children's services agency and the help of Southern Oregon Stitchers and Uplift Group.

I can't believe the way this program took off. There has been so much community support and outreach. It's just so awesome, said Beck. We've had a lot of feedback from foster parents about getting bags and how much the bags mean to the child. That was really the only reason I thought this would be a good program. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.