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Fostering hope: Local woman organizes ‘kid kits’ fundraiser for county’s foster care program

Donna Sauvageau, left, and Joni Wohlwend hold up one of the 'kid kits' that Sauvageau assembled to deliver to the Becker County Human Services building on Monday. The kits were assembled inside 'Clever Shopper' bags that were donated for the project by Sauvageau's Clever Container clients. A total of 30 kits were delivered and will be donated to kids in the county's foster care program, which Wohlwend supervises. (Submitted photo)

One day early this summer, Detroit Lakes resident Donna Sauvageau was visiting at a nearby home when her friend’s new foster care charges arrived.

She noticed that they were carrying everything they owned…in garbage bags. Not in suitcases, backpacks, or totes--but garbage bags.

“When I asked my friend about it, she said that’s how the kids come to her…they have no luggage,” Sauvageau said. “That just broke my heart.”

So she decided she was going to do something about it. As a consultant for Clever Container, Sauvageau knew about these lightweight bags, called “Clever Shoppers,” that would hold a large volume of items without taking up much room.

“We have a space issue,” said Joni Wohlwend, a social worker with Becker County Human Services who oversees the licensure of foster care homes in the county. “Suitcases would be impossible to manage. We simply don’t have the storage space here. But these bags take up such a tiny amount of space, and they come in a variety of colors and patterns. They’re perfect.”

Sauvageau sent out a message to her friends and customers on Facebook, letting them know that she was doing a little fundraiser for the county’s foster care program: For every four “Clever Shopper” bags purchased through her store as donations to the program, she would throw in a fifth bag at her expense.

“The bags are about $17 each,” Sauvageau said. “I also thought it would be nice for the kids to have what my family calls ‘loveys’--a soft blanket and plush toy--as part of the package.

“I belong to the Lakes Country Networking group, and one of our members donated 30 stuffed animals. Another member, Bonnie Mohs, made 10 small blankets, and the whole networking group donated 20 larger fleece blankets.”

The smaller blankets would go into bags that were given to younger children, while the larger fleece ones would be given to teenagers.

“I like the addition of the blankets and plush toys,” Wohlwend said. “Many of these kids are so traumatized…to have something soft and huggable to take with them (to their new foster home), that’s huge.”

So after Sauvageau had collected enough bags and supplies to make up 30 of these “kid kits,” she delivered them to Wohlwend at the Human Services building on Monday morning.

“It was the generosity of a whole bunch of people that made it possible,” she said. “I wouldn’t be averse to continuing this if some more people (or businesses) wanted to come forward and make a donation.”

Those interested in learning more about the fundraiser or making a donation to purchase more bags, blankets and toys, can contact Donna Sauvageau at donnasclever@gmail.com.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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