PLAINVILLE - As Sharon Pendleton-Ponzani pointed to the blue duffel bag filled with â€śStar Warsâ€ť activities, toiletries, a huggable stuffed dog and a gray and white fuzzy blanket Monday afternoon, she explained the need for foster care families.
â€śThere are 4,000 kids in foster care in Connecticut; 800 of those are in temporary placements awaiting a home,â€ť said Pendleton-Ponzani, director of foster care programs for the Wheeler Clinic. â€śAt any given point in time, there are 60 kids in the New Britain, Plainville, Southington, Berlin and Bristol area who are in need of foster homes.â€ť
The figures are, in part, what spurred volunteers from the nearby Mott Corp. to help employees of Wheeler, under the outdoor pavilion at the organizationâ€™s campus, to fashion 200 â€śSweet Casesâ€ť duffel bags filled with essentials for children in foster care who often have to leave their homes at a momentâ€™s notice with little more than the clothes on their backs.
â€śMost of our kids come with very little,â€ť Pendleton-Ponzani said. â€śUsually they have their things in a trash bag.â€ť
Wheeler offers behavioral health and other services to the community, including foster care. The organization usually oversees about 200 children in foster care and group homes at any given time.
Most are between 6 and 18 years old. Many are taken out of unsafe living arrangements quickly, leaving them little time to gather their personal belongings, Pendleton-Ponzani said.
Mondayâ€™s event was designed not only to provide duffel bags that children in foster care can keep, but to raise awareness about the great need for foster families, she said.
The duffel bags were donated to Wheeler by Together We Rise, a national organization that does charitable work, the blankets were donated by Project Linus, which makes blankets for a variety of charitable causes, and the toiletries and activities were donated by employees of the Mott Corp., which also partners with Wheeler as â€śhealth ambassadorsâ€ť on a variety of projects for children.
â€śIt feels really good to know that you can send a positive message to someone less fortunate,â€ť said Mott sales and marketing employee Patty Dillon Cruickshanks, who wrote â€śI shineâ€ť and two smiley faces and the sun on a bag she was decorating. â€śTheyâ€™ll be able to keep this. Itâ€™s a great opportunity to help.â€ť
Rodney Mote, another Mott employee, said that he often volunteers for projects at his church and thought Mondayâ€™s event was a good way to help. He admitted that he was inspired by Cruickshanksâ€™ message, so he wrote â€śI riseâ€ť on the blue bag he was decorating.
â€śSome kids are blessed and some kids donâ€™t have as much,â€ť he said. â€śI think if you could give your time, that would help.â€ť
For more information on becoming a foster parent, those interested can call Brittany Diorio or Christopher Popilowski at 860-793-7277 or visit .