Several Rock House Ruritan Club members gathered Saturday at the Rock House Ruritan Community Center to present Jenny Bullins of the Stokes County Department of Social Services with a gift of 125 duffle bags to be used by foster children in Stokes County.
The project came about after Rock House club member Sue Williamson heard a presentation which mentioned that Stokes County foster children had used plastic garbage or grocery bags for their clothing when being transported from one location to another. The simple comment touched Williamson, who for a short time had a foster child in her own home.
Williamson vividly recalls the two-month period from more than three years ago, when she cared for an infant boy until he was adopted. The boy, named Levi, has recently been on her mind as he is now struggling with a serious kidney ailment.
After talking to Stokes County Department of Social Services representatives, Williamson discovered a need for duffel bags to be used by foster children for their clothing and other items. With an idea beginning to form, she dubbed her effort “Project Levi” and began to search online for possible help from businesses.
Her research led her to 4imprint, a company offering promotional products that also featured a strong charitable program called “one by one.” According to Williamson, the company quickly offered to donate 75 duffel bags, leaving the club with 50 bags to purchase in order to reach its goal of 125.
She presented the project to the Rock House Ruritan Club and it was received enthusiastically. She then reached out to the other seven Ruritan clubs in Stokes County, including Chestnut Grove, Francisco, Germanton, Lawsonville, Pine Hall, Pinnacle and Sandy Ridge. All were eager to help and ready to get started. Ruritans are now discussing the possibility of an ongoing project.
One club, the Germanton Ruritan Club, is making pillow cases for foster children.
“So much good has come from this,” Williamson said. “One of the great things is that we have our Stokes County clubs working together. These are all great clubs but together we are stronger.”
Rock House Ruritan Club President Deborah McClerin was among those touched by hearing how foster children had watched as their clothes were put in trash bags for moving. She credited Williamson with inspiring the effort while noting that the entire club was supporting it.
“It has been traumatic for children and for workers to see a foster child’s clothing put in a trash bag,” Stokes County social services representative Jenny Bullins explained. “Several years ago a movement was started to have no more trash bags used for kids’ clothes. This is a part of that continuing movement.”
According to Bullins, there are 100 foster children in Stokes County. Those numbers have doubled in the past five years and Bullins points to an area drug problem of epidemic proportions as the cause. She notes that some 79 percent of foster cases now involve a drug component.
“We look first for relatives but we are desperate for foster care,” she explained. “Society is failing these children and we need homes for them.”
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent may contact the Stokes County Department of Social Services from Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m., at 336-593-2861. Ask to speak to Foster Care Licensing Social Worker Kim Clayton at extension 1154. Additional information can also be found at www.co.stokes.nc.us/dss.