Posted by Cathy K on Feb 08, 2019
 
How Clubs can help and contacts for interest on being on the committee (PDG Harry Kieling (farnorthflyers@gmail.com) and Stacie Stigar (rotary5010caresforkids@gmail.com).
 
 
 
Rotary Cares for Kids
Update January 2019
 
Rotary Cares for Kids was launched as a District 5010 wide project in the spring of 2017. The idea stemmed from the unfortunate situation which often arises when Alaskan children were being picked up and moved into foster family homes. When the children were moved they seldom had a suitcase, back pack or duffel bag to put the few personal items they might own. Instead they were often handed a green plastic garbage bag. Thus they became initially known as the “Garbage Bag Kids”
 
These children were being uprooted from their homes, separated from their families and placed in strange unfamiliar surroundings. It was often an emotionally terrifying experience for the kids. The forty clubs of District 5010 saw this as an opportunity to bring a little joy in a very trying time for a young person by providing them a little self-worth and recognition there are people who care for them. The plan was to provide them a back pack or duffel bag of their own with some personal items and a small fleece blanket that is embroidered with “Rotary Cares for Kids”
 
In April 2017 a committee was formed to define the program and develop and implement a pilot project. The ultimate goal was to deploy the program statewide and make it sustainable over the long term. Also over the following months the clubs generously donated money to purchase these back packs and duffels. Many Rotarians donated extensive time to organize and manage the program. The back pack, duffel, and fleece blanket design was finalized.  500 back packs and 500 duffels were purchased. When the items arrived in late October, 2017 “Packing Parties” were organized around the state to collect the personal items and blankets to put in the back packs.
 
 
By the end of 2018, we have given out over 400 duffel bags and close to 250 backpacks to all OCS Regions in Alaska and in the Yukon.  Feedback has been extremely positive.  As the numbers indicate, the duffel bags are more in demand.  We are working with several Nonprofits to find the optimum way to distribute the bags and backpacks to every deserving child in Alaska and the Yukon
 
Some of the agencies working with us are as follows:
  • The State of Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS). Caring and helpful staff have been involved from the beginning in defining the challenge and helping with distribution. Our goal is to have one point of contact identified in each OCS office to be responsible for their area distribution.
  • Alaska Center for Resource Families (ACRF). Under Aileen McInnis leadership ACRF will give out bags to current foster families that want them and distribute them to new foster families going through training. Aileen will also present the details of the program to new OCS employees as they go through initial training.
  • Beacon Hill under Charity Carmody’s leadership will offer them to children doing visits at their family support center.
  • By March of 2019 the goal is to contact the following agencies to invite them to join our partnership:
    • AK Child and Family
    • Denali Family Services
    • Hope Community Services
    • Alaska Youth and Family Network (AFYN)
    • Covenant House
    • Facing Foster Care in Alaska
Rotarians Work for Kids
Another Way to Help Out
 
Also in 2019 we want to launch a new offshoot of Rotary Cares for kids and we are calling it Rotarians Work for Kids. When Rotary Cares for Kids was initiated it saw the perfect union of District 5010 and foster children and foster families.
  • District 5010 has 40 clubs spanning the breadth of Alaska and the Yukon
  • Rotarians are committed to making life better for Alaskans and Yukoners
  • Community Service is ingrained in every Rotarian.
  • Foster children and foster parents are often struggling with making ends meet or being able to make life better for themselves
Taking advantage of the region wide distribution of Rotary clubs and the desire of Rotarians to make their communities better, we are launching an offshoot of Rotary Cares to identify and match up clubs around the District with foster families or foster children who might have a need that we can meet. If a project involves foster children and/or foster parents and a local Rotary club can pitch in and help we will go after it.
 
These wants and needs can cover a wide spectrum. The key to success is to be able to identify a need and match that with local Rotary clubs that can meet that need. One such simple effort was helping with a Christmas Party hosted in Anchorage whereby Rotarians interacted with some foster children and their foster parents. As a part of this effort, Stacie Stigar, the District Chair for Rotary Cares reached out to Rotarians to solicit gifts for the party. Also, Stacie received an email from Jennifer Heikkila at the Office of Children's Services.  Jennifer stated that 13 youth from the State of Alaska (ages  9 - 18) are in long term mental health facilities outside of Alaska.  OCS was looking for individuals to purchase a $25 gift card - Amazon, Target, ITunes, Barnes and Noble etc. - for these youth.  A Christmas card addressed to the youth was included along with encouraging words. Rotary Cares reached out to help gather these gift cards.
 
District Rotarians can help with that effort.
 
Another coordinated effort was steered by Palmer Rotarian and Assistant District Governor, Brenda Sheldon. Aileen McInnes, Alaska Center for Resource Families asked if Rotary Cares could help find a suitable truck to move gifts for annual Mat Su valley Christmas Party. The truck available in the past was not this year so Brenda reached out to a local merchant who was able to meet the need. Unfortunately because of the earthquake the party was cancelled but offered next year.
 
As we move into 2019, we hope to expand our reach; improve our duffel/backpack distribution system; continue to raise funds to ensure our sustainability and to develop the infra structure for the Rotarians Work For Kids Program. To that end, we are issuing a call for action to all District Clubs. 
 
First, we want to expand our committee by getting representation from as many clubs and areas as we can. To that we are asking each club president to make a short announcement at their club meetings.
 
The plan is to develop our Rotary Facebook page into an interactive “market place” where foster kids and foster parents can identify small projects that a local Rotary club could help with. Past District Governor Harry Kieling with the help of the Rotary Cares Team will help pair up the requests with clubs that are in the area and want to help. Rotary clubs and Rotarians are often eager to help with small local projects but don’t really have a good feel what those needs are. The Facebook match up will hopefully help.The Facebook Page and the District newsletter will be used to advertise the program and its accomplishments. The Rotary Cares Committee will reach out to the agencies listed earlier to inform them of the existence of this outgrowth of Rotary Cares. We are in contact with a young woman who grew up in foster care. We are hoping she can help with social media and our web site to expand the program.
Understandably Rotary Cares won’t be able to take on every project but should be able to provide the help to meet many needs and in the end make the foster care experience easier and more pleasurable.
 
Next Action Steps
  1. Identify the District Committee
    1. Currently the following have been identified as part of the ad hoc committee
      1. Harry Kieling, PDG, Anchorage Downtown
      2. Stacie Stigar, Rotary Cares Committee Chair, Palmer
      3. Bob Gross, Past President, Anchorage Downtown,
      4. Brenda Sheldon, Assistant District Governor,
      5. Lisa Phillips, Past President,
      6. Lamarr Anderson, Lieutenant Governor, Palmer
      7. Charity Carmody, Anchorage Downtown and Beacon Hill Director
    2. Hopefully each club will identify one contact person who is enthused about Rotary Cares. That person’s name and contact information should be forwarded to PDG Harry Kieling (farnorthflyers@gmail.com) and Stacie Stigar (rotary5010caresforkids@gmail.com). That contact person may be called upon to coordinate duffel/back packs delivery in their club area. They also may be called upon to coordinate a club’s response to a local need identified by Rotarians Work for Kids.
    3.  From the expanded list of club representatives, two or more subcommittees will be formed.
      1. A finance committee which will review donations and expenditures and prepare an annual budget
      2. A project review and approval committee who will evaluate local projects for feasibility, need, and club matching.
    4. An Outreach committee will be formed with a social media coordinator to design, monitor and update the web site. It will be critical to determine how best to engage foster families and foster children and match achievable goals and projects with Rotary resources.  This committee will also be responsible for marketing and publicity and club visits and presentations.
    5. And all of this is just the beginning. District 5010 Rotarians have hearts of gold and unstoppable determination. We can act together and in acting together make life a little happier for some kids that Rotary cares for.