Tag Archives: back packs

That’s MY Bag.

Guest blog post by Maritza Moreno, the 2009-2011 president of the South Dade Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, and founder of My Bags.  She and her husband have been foster parents since 2008. 

The “seed” for the My Bag project was placed in our hearts by a child protective investigations supervisor in Miami, Jenny Soriano-Priestly.  She related how distressing it was that most of the time when children are removed from their parents they don’t have a bag or suitcase to put their belongings in.  CPIs would have to resort to using trash bags to transport the belongings of children while they were undergoing the trauma of being removed from their parents. This was horrifying to me; these “little things” we just don’t think about in our day-to-day lives, but these “little things,” the subtle messages, are the ones that children learn from.

At the time, we unfortunately didn’t have the money to fund the project.  However, at the end of 2011, our Association received a generous donation and, with matching funds from Our Kids of Miami-Dade & Monroe, our current president, Martha Pedroso, made sure that the project was a success.

We have bought 250 “My Bags” that are being distributed to the DCF hubs and also some police stations in Miami.  When CPIs go to remove a child, they bring one of the bags to help the child collect their belongings – a bag the child can call their own.

Mrs. Pedroso’s marketing background has proven very effective to get the community involved at all levels. One volunteer heard about us through social networking. A Davie student, Ari Kaplan, chose to participate in the My Bag project by fundraising and collecting duffle bags as his Bar Mitzvah special community project.

The next step is to obtain comfort items to include with the bags, such as toothbrush/toothpaste, a small toy or book.  We understand that sometimes these children may not have these items or there may not be enough time to obtain them.

We wish to ease the trauma children must endure. They are innocent victims.

Keeping little bellies full

Guest post by Kimberly Kutch, DCF Community Development Administrator for Circuit 20 (serving Charlotte, Glades, Lee Hendry and Collier counties)

Jolene Mowry knew that, sadly, many children go to bed hungry. She was sure that wasn’t the case in Charlotte County where she lived.

Jolene was in North Carolina speaking to a friend about the number of kids in school who often go hungry.  The friend told Jolene she may be surprised if she spoke with local schools back home.

What Jolene found was frightening. Approximately 455 students in Charlotte County Public School district are homeless.  She decided to do something about it.

Jolene Mowry, Director of The Back Pack Kidz; Angela Kirshy, Back Pack Kidz Volunteer.

Jolene founded the The Yah Yah Girls Inc. Their mission: “Help children in Charlotte County who are homeless, near homeless or who are living in dire financial need.” In November 2010, after much research, planning and fundraising, the Yah Yahs began their Back Pack Kidz Program at Sallie Jones Elementary  School.  By Fall 2011 the Back Pack Kidz program expanded to five elementary schools and hope to continue to grow.

Delivering backpacks to a school

Here’s how Back Pack Kidz works: On Fridays, the Yah Yahs deliver backpacks of healthy, nonperishable, child-friendly food to the schools to distribute to the identified children so they will not go hungry over the weekend. The empty backpacks are picked up early the next week and the process begins again.

Volunteers packing back packs with food.

For the 2012/2013 school year, there are 4,762 students eligible for free and reduced breakfast/lunch in the area. These are children who often do not have access to regular meals outside of schools. In the 2011/2012 school year, about 22,000 backpacks were delivered. Weekly, $107,250 was spent on food for the backpacks.

The Yah Yahs have now become a part of DCF’s Partner for Promise program and will be providing backpacks of food for any elementary school child that may go hungry without additional help.

The power of just one individual is amazing. The power of groups is empowering. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in your community.


If you know a child under age 19 who needs food during the summer months, please visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Summer BreakSpot. The program offers free healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks all summer long.  

Does your business have a service or product that could help needy families in your community? Check out DCF’s Partners for Promise to see how you can help.