Comfort Packages to Benefit Foster Children

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By Sarah Hansen

Fifty kids in transition will receive comfort packages thanks to Woodruff Just Cause and the United Way.

Maureen Nelson, executive director of the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha & Pierce Counties, was cleaning out her home when she uncovered some luggage that belonged to her grown children.

"My daughter had just watched a story on 'Ellen' about Comfort Cases for kids entering foster care," Nelson explained. "So I contacted Goodhue Social Services and asked if there was a need."

Kris Johnson, social services supervisor for Goodhue County, said that the number one reason children are being removed from their homes locally is due to parent addiction — and the number of cases is increasing. However, there wasn't room for luggage in their offices, so Nelson contacted the United Way building owner and was offered free space to store up to 50 care packages.

Meanwhile, across town, the local branch of Woodruff launched a new volunteer initiative called Woodruff Just Cause.

"We're a national marketing firm focused on animal health and agriculture," account manager Megan Ramaker said. "So I expected the staff to want to work with the Humane Society or animal issues, but overwhelmingly we wanted our first project to benefit women and children."

The United Way paired Woodruff to build care packages for kids entering foster care, and after a few short weeks working with a limited number of business partners and friends — including Red Wing Shoe, Indigo Salon and the City of Red Wing — their goal was met. On Friday, Oct. 20, 50 kits were assembled and will begin to immediately impact local families.

Ramaker notes that a colleague from Woodruff's Columbia, Mo., branch is a foster father and he suggested that on top of collecting luggage, blankets and pillows, kids are often in need of underwear, socks and pajamas.

When Ramaker went to the Red Wing Wal-Mart to buy $100 worth of pajamas for the kids, management comped the purchase and gave her a $50 gift card to buy more.

Ramaker says about 90 percent of all donations came from the community, including stuffed toys, comic books and even gently used LeapFrog LeapPads.

"We have to take care of our kids," Nelson said. "They're all of our kids."