SHILLINGTON, Pa. — In the auditorium of the Immanuel United Church of Christ in Shillington, those with the nonprofit Richie's Wish sorted stuffed animals, toiletries and backpacks, what they call "blessing bags" for children entering foster care.
"We had a gym, Orange Theory Fitness, and two hospital teams the Reading Hospital ED and St. Joe's PAB team collect bags for us," explained Eleanor Delewski, founder of Richie's Wish.
Those helping said the need for the bags is great because when children come in to this situation, they don't have much in tow.
"Not much," Delewski said. "My husband and I have fostered 12 kids over the years. Most kids have arrived to our home with clothes and one or two things in a bag, so the blessing bags give them something of their own."
Many of the volunteers are foster parents, or they went through the system themselves. So, what's the next step in this process of giving?
“These blessing bags will go to the LIFE House, and they'll be stored there and inventoried there according to age and gender, and they just mean so much," said Robin McPeak, supervisor, Partners in Parenting.
The bags are made available to children in need or foster care case workers who may be helping in an emergency situation when a child is in need. The final destination for the blessing bags can have a big impact on a foster child's life.
"A stuffed animal and hold up and say, 'Look. We don't have to share a toothbrush anymore,'" McPeak recalled. "They mean more than the average person can know."