By Melissa Howard
Bags of Love helps comfort children who have been taken out of their homes. The program provides a child with something to call his own: a bag filled with basic essentials and a couple of special items, including a kid-sized handmade comforter (the bag matches the comforter), a soft cuddly toy, personal care items (comb, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste), etc. Everything is age appropriate.
The founder of the Rhode Island chapter of Bags of Love, Miriel Dorsey, answered a few questions for Street Sights:
How did you get interested in doing something like this?
“I saw a program that someone else was watching, a newscast about a couple getting arrested for drugs. In the background you could see a window and in the window were two children crying. The lady that was watching this said, ‘We need to do something about this, those poor children.’ Because in many case where there are drugs involved, the children don’t see their parents again. Then DCYF comes in and takes them and puts them in foster care or a group home. In many cases, the children don’t always get to bring anything of their own with them. The lady that was watching this used to own a business doing crafts. She’s 75 years young now and doesn’t do that anymore. She was going to get rid of some of her stuff, but something told her not to. Then when she saw this on TV she knew right away what to do with all the stuff she saved. So she started making the quilts and the bags, then started to put other stuff inside of them. And that’s how it became the Bags of Love. Then that’s when I saw that and said, ‘I want to do that.’”
How long have you been doing this now?
“I started about two years ago. But I’ve been active in it since September, because I was by myself. You see there are different chapters in every state. In every state they would like to have someone who does this and when I went on line there was no one in Rhode Island. The closest one was in New Hampshire. I told the lady in New Hampshire that I would be willing to make them and send them to her. She told me that she would love to receive them but that maybe I should start my own chapter in Rhode Island. Because I would be missing out on the blessing myself. I’m a shy person and didn’t want to go through all that, but in the end I did and I’m so glad that I did.”
Do you enjoy doing this?
“It’s a blessing giving just as much as they get receiving. To know we’re making a difference in some child’s life, to where no one else cares. People always ask why not go to Wal-Mart and buy a blanket. Their missing the point. When the children see that we’ve taken the time to put this together makes them feel special.”
What are the ages of the children you make the bags for?
“Birth to seventeen, boys and girls. Each bag is different depending on their ages.”
How long does it take from beginning to end to make a bag and quilt?
“Well, I work and I work on it on breaks, so for me about a week. But if you don’t work maybe a day or two.”
How much does each bag cost to make?
“About $35.00 per bag.”
Do you get to meet the children you make the bags for?
“No, I don’t. We hand them to DCYF and they give them out.”
How many volunteers do you have now?
“Five right now. We meet every Monday. Three sew and two others help cut, iron, and make labels, whatever’s needed. The bags that we make are waterproof and durable unless they take scissors to it. In the front is a pocket, and in the pocket I put personal items. Once they get this and they have the quilt in there, a teddy bear to hug or talk to. They can use it to go to visit to see their family, because most times when a child goes on a visit they put their clothes in a plastic bag. But now they have their own bag.”
What are the age groups of your volunteers?
“I believe the youngest is eighteen and the oldest is seventy-five. Not everyone can sew but everyone can do something.”
Do your volunteers work too?
“All but Shelly. She’s 75. The need is great, we buy everything out of pocket, and we rely on donations to help out.”
210 Town Farm Road
Pascoag, RI 02859