Superior charity adds duffle bag program
October 7, 2021
As we head into the fall and winter months, charitable agencies are stepping up their requests for donations. Most are located in some far off city and we do not know those responsible for its operation. But that isn't true of one group. The Ambassadors of Kindness is a nonprofit group based in Superior. It provides children in foster care with Christmas gifts through donations. In recent years, the group has begun doing more than just playing Santa to hundreds of children.
Jaxon and Ellie Karnatz experienced life in the foster system firsthand and wanted to do something that would make the experience better for other children. With the help of their adopted parents, Austin Karnatz and Brian Splater, their first toy drive was held in 2019. In the 22 months since, a total of 237 individuals and businesses have donated to TOYS4FosterCare. From Aug. 7 through Sept. 28 of this year items valued at $6,373,72 have been donated. Board members for the group are Brian Splater, Carla Gebers, Reanna Sutton and Cassie Wagoner.
Since 2020 the group added the campaign Colors4Kids. This campaign provided colors, colored pencils and coloring books, and paper to children in foster care and in hospitals, with a creative outlet they wouldn't have had otherwise.
This year they have added a third campaign, ComfortBags. The Cedars in Lincoln was the first to enroll in the Comfort Bag Campaign. This project will provide children in foster care with a bag to place their possessions in and the basics to hold them over for a time in a new placement. When children are removed from their home or foster home, they usually don't leave with much. The shirt on their back is often all they have, and if they have anything to bring along, it is often placed in a trash bag. Then the child is taken to an office to sit for hours while a caseworker makes calls to find a bed for them to sleep in. It often takes weeks to find a permanent placement, and that placement often does not have items readily available.
Imagine for a second being ripped away from all you have ever known. You are tired, scared and frustrated. Then you are placed with a strange family, and all you own is in a plastic grocery bag.
Ellie and Jaxon's hope is to provide a sense of security and confidence to other foster children through this program. They know firsthand how that tote bag or duffel bag and what it contains can be so important and provide security and hope for a child.
Comfort Bags provide each child with a tote bag, backpack or a duffel bag for when they move. Each bag will contain two to four age appropriate items such as, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, body wash, blankie for newborn to four years, a stuffed animal for newborn to six years, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, Play-Doh, or sidewalk chalk.
The Comfort Bag campaign is year-round and separate from the toy drive. Every other month, Ambassadors will deliver these "Comfort Bags" to The Cedars and hope to soon be including the Children's Society and Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. Since these agencies will receive new bags as children are moved from home to home, they will need constant supplies. Each child will receive one tote or bag, and once they have received a bag, they will not receive another.
The Ambassadors of Kindness are seeking recurring monthly contributors willing to donate from $8 to $13 each month. Just 10 people donating $8 each month will help keep the bags bought and purchase everything to go in them. To donate, visit https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=TGAE86WLQP6SQ or contact a board member for more information.
An interesting sidelight to this story is the house in which Jaxon and Ellie live has a previous charitable connection. One of its first occupants, Mrs. Claire Adams, served as national president of a group which was the forerunner of what today we know as the Red Cross.