by Dennis Dalman
Sometimes a simple gift given from the heart is all hurting foster children need to feel loved, safe and secure.
That’s the concept behind Pockets of Hope, an organization started recently by three Sartell women. The three are collecting all kinds of comfort items that are placed into backpacks and given to children going through the fostering process in Stearns County.
A fundraiser for Pockets of Hope will take place from 5-8 p.m. Sunday, April 19 at the Blue Line Bar and Grill in Sartell. Twenty percent of all sales during that time will be given to Pockets to purchase backpacks and items that go into them. Those who bring items to donate will receive free tickets for the raffles and drawings that will take place during the event.
Right now, the most-needed items are pajamas, toys, socks, underwear and large backpacks for children of all ages.
For a full list of items, age by age, as well as other ways to donate, see the Pockets of Hope website at www.pocketsofhope.org.
There were about 400 children placed in foster homes in Stearns County last year. In just the first three months of 2015, 250 children were placed in care, said Lisa Schroers, co-founder and president of Pockets of Hope.
Schroers is the owner/operator of a daycare business in Sartell dubbed Mud Pies and Dandelions. She earned a bachelor’s degree in child psychology and opened her daycare seven years ago. The mothers of two of Schroers’ daycare children have joined her to form the Pockets organization.
Jennifer Bruzek of Sartell is a social worker who has served in the cause of child welfare for seven years, at times helping place children into foster care. She’s the one who knows how to locate foster children who receive the Pockets of Hope backpacks.
Briana Sjodin, who also lives in Sartell and has a degree in finance, has worked for the past 10 years in the financial field.
All three women share a passionate love and concern for children, and all three have special skills that make Pockets a smooth and successful non-profit organization. Schroers describes herself as the “dreamer.” Bruzek understands foster-care issues and has the necessary contacts, and Sjodin is the practical one with financial acumen.
Every year, Schroers – with help from her daycare parents – has done an annual fundraiser for children or families in need. Last year, Schroers found out about a Twin Cities program that gave backpacks filled with comfort and fun items to foster children undergoing the trauma of separation. Schroers was impressed and sought out a similar organization in Stearns County but could find nothing like it. Bruzek, familiar with foster-children issues, also could find nothing similar.
After the women brainstormed, they worked out specific details, then had to go through a waiting period to get the non-profit status for their new organization.
Their mission is simple: “To give kids hope for a brighter future.”
Their website states this: “Every day children are rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment. These children are confused, scared and desperate for security and comfort after being separated from family, home and possessions. Children frequently enter foster care with nothing. Pockets of Hope provides these children with new backpacks filled with personal-care items they can call their own.”
People can donate to Pockets of Hope via PayPal on its website. Go to www.pocketsofhope.org.