As the need for foster families continues to be a challenge almost everywhere, the giving congregation of Bethel United Church of Christ near Ada recently got together to support a program which helps children entering the foster program.
Children are often placed into foster care after something traumatic happens with their parents or in their homes. Those incidents can happen at any hour of the day or night.
Enter the Backpack Buddies program, which since this past May has been working to fill backpacks with clothes, toiletries, baby supplies, toys, and other items which might be needed by a child on a moment’s notice. Nicole Herda and Wendy Smith of the Backpack Buddies program said sometimes children are displaced from their homes on very short notice with nothing but the clothes on their back. Backpack Buddies got started after a social worker commented that out of a large number of children only one had a backpack—the rest had whatever items they had in garbage bags.
As of early last month there were 92 children in out-of-home placement in Manitowoc County, Herda said, including a large influx of infants.
She said Backpack Buddies “allows the kids to have something that is theirs. This way you’re going to see people loved you and they don’t even know you.”
That is a good description of the people at Bethel UCC, which each month takes up collections to help area causes. In one recent month over 300 school supply items were donated to local schools. A month earlier $550 in clothing was donated to veterans homes, and more recently local veterinarians were the beneficiary of a collection. “We’re a very good church with a giving heart,” said Elizabeth Birschbach of Bethel UCC.
As the accompanying photograph shows, this time Bethel UCC’s members went above and beyond as they donated piles of diapers, baby clothes, stuffed animals, backpacks, toys, and more to the Backpack Buddies program.
Manitowoc County Human Services employees help pack the backpacks so that they are ready when the next call goes out for a child in need.

Search for Backpack Buddies on Facebook to learn more about the program.