News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 30, 2013

Bunnies & blankets: Realtors try to ease discomfort for displaced kids

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — New pajamas, underwear, stuffed animals and soft blankets are among the items filling 100 gift bags for children who enter the Department of Child Services system.

For instance, when a child is removed from a home where a meth lab has contaminated everything — including the child — even the clothes that the child is wearing must be removed and destroyed. The child can take nothing — not a favorite toy or even personal care items.

The Terre Haute Area Association of Realtors has stepped up for the ninth year to make a difference for children in that disruptive situation by filling the “Home is Where You Are” community service project. On Monday, several Realtors, appraisers, bankers and other affiliates met to fill reusable orange tote bags with age-appropriate items for children from newborn to age 14. Those comfort bags are intended for the child or the foster parent who receives the child from a DCS social worker.

“Last year, we learned that DCS had picked up a 5-year-old girl who cried from the time she was picked up until they got her to the office and she got a blanket,” said Arlene Manwaring, one of the project organizers.

Because confidentiality must be maintained for the children, the Realtors group never knows who receives the comfort bags.

“These kits help the foster parents as well,” Manwaring said, “because they don’t know when they’ll get children or at what time or age.”

The Realtors association accepted monetary donations from its members and affiliates to purchase many of the items in the bags. They also received donations from businesses, such as First Financial Bank’s fleece blankets and Wells Fargo’s bags. Other items include shampoo, lotion, brush, comb, diapers or underwear, socks, bottles, wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other items for the child and foster family to get started.

The project started in 2004, when the Realtors wanted a service project that was different and would impact the community in a needed way. In 2005, the first bags were put together and donated. The number has grown, and so has involvement by the realtor group.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said organizer Charles Parks. “Those that have should give.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.