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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Foster Love

By Cheryl Maguire

In high school and college I used to volunteer for causes I was passionate about. Then I had children and my volunteer efforts revolved around their interests. I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to meet their friends and other parents, but it wasn’t the same as volunteering for causes I believed in.

Recently I had the opportunity to do both—volunteer for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and help a cause that was close to my heart. I used to be a counselor for children, some of whom were involved with the foster care system. Through blogging, I met Deirdre Littlefield, who is a foster parent. She told me that when a foster child goes to their house, they receive a comfort case—a backpack filled with items such as pajamas, a toothbrush, or other things that they might need for their first night in foster care.

My daughter’s Girl Scout Troop agreed to create 25 comfort cases. I went in search of items for the cases, requesting donations from various organizations. My efforts were successful: Gymboree donated more than $1,000 worth of clothing (pajamas, socks, and underwear); Lowes donated 25 flashlights; Stop and Shop donated a $25 gift card; Target donated a $100 gift card; and CVS donated a $200 gift card, all of which were used to purchase needed items. Meanwhile, the local library donated books, and the girls created supportive cards to place in each bag. They decorated the cards with hearts, smiley faces, and flowers, including messages such as “Dear Friend” or “I’m thinking of you.”

During a Girl Scout meeting, the troop sorted through all the donations and made the comfort cases, which Deirdre was there to accept. She shared a personal story with the Girl Scout Troop about how a young foster child came to her house feeling scared and nervous. When Deirdre gave her the comfort case, the child’s demeanor changed and she was able to engage with the family. The comfort case helped the child to feel safe. After hearing the story, one of the Girl Scouts shouted out, “I feel so happy right now.”

I was overwhelmed with the generosity of all of these businesses, and I loved the supportive cards the Girl Scouts created. With all the negative news stories and politics leaving me feeling sad and helpless, this experience restored my faith in the goodness of people and alleviated my feeling of powerlessness. We had all done something that actually helped others.

It’s easy to volunteer. It could be as simple as offering to help someone you just met. Simply ask, “How can I help you?” According to a recent review of research by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), you’ll be the better for it. CNCS has found that volunteering is beneficial to our health, lowering levels of depression and increasing levels of happiness and life satisfaction, as well as the length of our lives.

If you’d like to volunteer and help foster kids in Sonoma County, contact Love in a Shoebox, an organization that puts together packages like comfort cases, but in shoeboxes, for local kids in need. See or visit the organization’s Facebook page for more information. 

Adapted from an article originally published on Signature Moms.

Cheryl Maguire holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in
Parents Magazine, Upworthy, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Your Teen Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @CherylMaguire05.