By Leslie H. Dixon
OXFORD — An Oxford foster parent and her friends have joined a nationwide effort to ensure that foster children never arrive at their new homes carrying their life’s possessions in a trash bag.
Misty Sturtevant, a 38-year-old Oxford resident and foster parent and nearly a dozen others, met Friday night in the break room of KBS in Paris, to partnership with a national charity organization, “Together We Rise,” to decorate and package dozens of duffel bags.
The blue duffel bags were hand decorated with images of Batman, guitars, kittens, and much more, then stuffed with a Teddy Bear bearing the logo “Together We Rise” logo.
The bags were delivered Monday to the Department of Health and Social Services in Lewiston who will distribute the bags.
“I have to do this,” Sturtevant said
The reasons are very personal.
Sturtevant said she first learned about fostering through a customer at Does in Paris, where she works. She began by doing respite care for other foster parents to give them a break and then decided to do a longer-term care of an “amazing” boy who has been with her since he was six months old. It was his arrival, she said, that opened up her eyes to the need.
“He came to us with two garbage bags. It was heart breaking,” she said of the bags that held jars of food, formula and clothes.
She knew she had to do something to help other foster care children – many who go to homes with their belonging in trash bags.
She contacted “Together We Rise,”a California-based charity organization, founded in 2008 by college students after one of their classmates discovered that their 9-year-old cousin was living in a car.
The group collaborates with community partners to bring resources to foster youth and use service-learning activities to educate volunteers on issues surrounding the foster care system, according to its website.
The foundation has provided thousands of foster youth across the country with new bicycles, college supplies, and suitcases so that children do not have to travel from home to home with their belongings in a trash bag.
With the help of friends and businesses like KBS in Paris who provided space for the project Friday night, Doe’s Inc. in Paris who donated pizza, and BNI ( a group of local businesses involved in the international BNI networking organization) and Tom Richards of Tom Richards Logging who helped supply the bags, Sturtevant said many more foster children will arrive at new homes with their belonging in duffel bags, not trash bags.
“I never knew kids were moved in trash bags. If I can get the word out (about the program,)” she said.