Di Barrong is the founder of Bags of Love, a charitable organization which provides bags to the various community agencies that serve the needs of children in those scary days between being taken from their own homes and being placed in more permanent foster care. In her own words, she shares how this organization came about.
A number of years ago, a dream began for me that I needed to find a way to help the children being removed from their homes and being placed into foster care. The children I observed being placed into an emergency foster home came with next to nothing in the line of possessions. I felt something needed to be done to help with that particular situation. I worked on this dream for about ten years before an idea was presented that I felt would work and be the best solution.
I was approached by a group called “Its My Very Own.” I received their manual and considered their program. It became clear after doing some research that this was in general a good project but it needed to be revised to meet the needs of our area. So, first of all, I chose the name of Bags of Love and filed with the State of Oregon to become a corporation on May 1, 2008. Next Bags of Love, Inc. filed for non-profit status. We filed on June 3, 2008, and it was official at the end of October. We received our status as a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.
Initially,we contacted DHS and they had bags that were supplied by a church that they used and were not interested in our bags. That was a blow, but we then began to contact local agencies that might have a need such as Relief Nursery, Head Start, Birth-to-3, Child Center, Womenspace, and many more. In talking with this group of agencies, if we could meet their need for the bags with the number of children they deal with, we needed 300 bags a month. Obviously that is an unattainable statistic.
This brings us to where we are now. We currently get out 50 to 75 bags a month, at a cost of approximately $75 a bag. The items within the bags are partially donated. However, with the support of numerous volunteers, Bags of Love, Inc. manages to keep putting bags in the hands of children that need them.
We recently moved into a new building that will allow the charity to grow and provide better service. We are located at 3910-A West 1st Street, Eugene, OR 97402. We have a new number, 541-357-4957. With the added space, we have added the number agencies we can serve as well as the number of volunteers who can work with us at any one time. We currently pull group volunteers from such groups as Levi Strauss, LeDoux Insurance, Kiwanas, etc.
The charity has grown so fast that we now have an Executive Board, a Board of Directors, and many sponsors, donors, and volunteers. Each are unpaid and do it with love from their hearts for these children. That is what Bags of Love, Inc. is about: Helping children in crisis one Bag of Love at a time.
The bags are hand sewn, a nice, personal touch and a far cry from the garbage and plastic bags carried by the children who changed Di’s life. Each stitch is made in love, something these children craved and found in these bags. They are filled according to the needs of boys or girls within the age ranges of Birth-1, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12. Based on the age and sex of the child, the bag may contain soap or baby wash, lotion, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, combs and brushes. Disposable diapers, fire-retardant pajamas, socks and underwear are also in the bags.
“We include a stuffed animal, an age- and gender-appropriate toy, school supplies, coloring books and crayons. Every bag, regardless of age or gender, includes a beautiful handcrafted quilt. Everything in each bag stays with the child, regardless of their placement, to give them a sense of security and belonging.”
When I expressed my appreciation to Di for the work she has been doing for these kids and that she is a blessing to them, she was quick to inform me that she was the one who was blessed. It is rewarding for her to show these kids that someone cares about them and that they are not throwaways.
Di’s dream has transformed so many lives. She is helping children in crisis one bag of love at a time. If you are interested in helping Di, please visit http://www.bagsofloveinc.org