BUCKHANNON — They filled the backpacks full of toothpaste and toothbrushes, blankets and stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books — any item that might provide some small measure of comfort in a time of great distress.
Members of the Buckhannon Rotary Club spent Tuesday afternoon living up to their motto of “service above self” by participating in the backpack program, an initiative run through the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources.
Often when children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care, it happens suddenly — they might be at school in the middle of eating lunch with their friends, for example. All too often, these children aren’t allowed to return home to collect their belongings: they are ushered quickly into a new, unfamiliar environment without anything except the clothes on their back, according to a handout provided by the club. The Buckhannon Rotary Club and other organizations try to ease this often-traumatic transition for children placed in foster care by filling backpacks with both necessities and a few items to provide entertainment.
On Tuesday, the Buckhannon Rotary Club filled nearly 100 backpacks with toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, blankets, stuffed animals, reading books, crayons, coloring/activity books, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, journals, notebooks and tissue packets. The backpacks will be distributed to kids ages 2-3, 4-6, 7-10 and 11-14.
“There’s a great need for it,” Rotary club president Steve Cain said. “When the DHHR comes in and removes kids, the backpacks help them get situated quicker. It’s a traumatic experience for these children to get removed from their homes, and they don’t have any of their stuff. The emphasis is on providing something that makes them feel a little better. Their lives are not going to be normal in any way, shape or form.”
The Buckhannon Rotary Club participates in the backpack program twice a year, Cain said. All backpacks filled Tuesday will be turned over to the W.Va. DHHR.