By Linda White
If you have ever received a care package from your family while you were away at summer camp or during your college years as you prepared for midterm or final exams, you know and understand the special nature of such a gift. Perhaps you have also had the pleasure of paying it forward for one of your own children.
A small group of Bedford teens (Hunter Fan-Chan, Sara Clarke, Julie Clarke, Matt Clement, Stephen Dresel, Nate Fisette, Noelle Fisette, Will Speciale and Conor Wisentaner) recently came together to make the care package experience a reality for 300 foster care students who are attending postsecondary education through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The group first came together three years ago when they were considering community service projects for their St. Michael’s CCD class led by Cindy Fisette. The first year, $157 was raised by contributions from the CCD class for the purchase of supplies for care packages. The second year, the group came together again, outside of their CCD class, and asked permission to solicit donations at the BHS Musical, Shrek. A total of $650 was raised through the generosity of those attending the production. Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards were a welcome addition to the care packages. This year the group, who are now BHS juniors, raised $1,065 through donations collected during the run of the BHS Musical, Cinderella, making it possible to fill 300 care packages with food items, school supplies and a personally written message of care and support.
The group of adult and teen volunteers who participated would like to express appreciation and a sincere “Thank You” to the Bedford community who generously donated and helped to fund this effort. In kind donations of school supplies were received from David Massey of Worldwide Center of Mathematics, Cambridge, MA. Thank you also to the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation for donating the bright red tote bags.
Bedford resident, Shirley Fan-Chan, who organized this project explained, “These students do not have families who are able to support and/or nurture them. They frequently live in group homes, on their own in rental units or college dorms while classes are in session. They cobble together alternative living situations with DCF assistance during school semester/vacation breaks and summers. Foster care students are likely to have part-time jobs to help supplement DCF stipends they receive for rental housing and/or campus housing expenses. Providing a care package during each semester helps to support and sustain them, emotionally and physically, during these periods.”
On Saturday, March 26, the collected materials and supplies for the 300 care packages were efficiently assembled and loaded into the cars, mini vans and trucks of the adult volunteers and delivered to the local DCF office in Arlington for distribution. Shirley Fan-Chan concluded, “This particular outreach project really struck home for our Bedford students because the target population is one that is close in age — but with far less privilege. I believe this particular group of young volunteers will carry a sense of passion and willingness to pay it forward well into their adulthood. I was proud to work with them as individuals and know how much they will touch the hearts of the foster care students.”
Adult volunteers who worked with the Bedford students included Mary Ellen Dunstan, Beth Goodrich, Andrea Urbano, Cindy Fisette, Rick Fisette, Betty Lowe and Cecilia Alden-Clarke.
Additional information regarding DCF programs for post-secondary foster students can be found at https://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/. Please contact Shirley Fan-Chan to learn more about these efforts or to participate: email@example.com or 617 642-9807.