Michelle and Travis Holler learned a lot at the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care parent-training sessions they attended. But one thing in particular stood out to them.
And that aspect of what they learned led them down an unexpected path.
“We learned that the kids [coming into foster care] usually are given a big trash bag into which they have to put their things,” Michelle says. “I thought that must cause anxiety immediately for them—it’s just you and this bag of stuff.”
The picture became more clear when the Hollers began to care for their first foster child.
“Our first foster child was a girl and she came with clothes that didn’t even fit,”Michelle notes. “That child already feels as if no one cares. The trash bag kind of says ‘your stuff doesn’t matter.’”
Michelle and Travis wanted to do something to make this already-anxious and -stressful time less that way. They spoke with others and Michelle turned to Facebook to share her concerns. Within an hour of her post, she says, a shipment of donated backpacks was on its way to her.
Bags to a New Beginning was born.
“We just spread the word everywhere,” Michelle says, “and soon we were getting donations of luggage, duffel bags and more backpacks. Then we got to thinking about other things the kids might need and we received donations of toothbrushes and toiletries.”
While the Hollers first focused on providing bags and personal care items for the children and youths, Michelle had another idea. This time she focused on kids who would be facing the first day of school, perhaps where they knew no one.
"We weren’t rich, but we had what we needed. That’s what these kids deserve.”
“I thought, ‘How cool would it be if they get to pick a backpack and get new school supplies?’ Michelle says. “And what else could they use? Maybe shoes?”
To focus their efforts, they formed the F.A.M.I.L.Y. Foundation, which stands for Fostering, Adopting, Mentoring, Inspiring, Loving Youth. The goal is to provide love and support for foster and adopted children and parents.
Bags to a New Beginning is the foundation’s first mission, Michelle explains. At the same time, they are focused on the next school year and have planned an event to support the needs for that (see below for details).
“We are working with all county agencies and foster-care organizations to get the word out,” Michelle says.
“We want to reach as many kids as we can. I grew up in a home where I didn’t want for anything,” she says. “We weren’t rich, but we had everything we needed. That’s what these kids deserve.”
The event the Hollers have planned ....
Back to School Bash
11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 15
Adams Ricci Park
100 E. Penn Drive, Enola, PA
Events include family-oriented games, picnic lunch, and visits from HersheyPark characters
Volunteers and donations are needed. Please email Michelle at the F.A.M.I.L.Y. Foundation for more information and to see how you can help: firstname.lastname@example.org.