Packed for life

Lydia Johnson | Jul 17, 2018

Iowa Kiwanians package supplies to help youth transition from foster care into adult life.

This past December, a group of Iowa kids stepped into adulthood, and members of the Kiwanis Club of Hy-Noon, Ottumwa were there to assist them in the transition. The young people were aging out of foster care, and through its Happy Bucks program, the Kiwanis club purchased items the teens could use to start new lives on their own.

Kiwanis members pose with items collected for their "launch packs." But the need didn’t stop after the holiday season. Roughly three to 15 kids age out of the Wapello County area’s foster care system annually. And because the teens often have no support system and little money, they may not be fully prepared for independent living.

“Kids who exit foster care at 18 have to face the world as adults on their own,” says club President Brenda Case. “We wanted to make it a more formal thing where we could help kids throughout the year.”

To ease the teens’ transition to the next stage in their lives, Case and colleague Holly Dommer of the American Home Finding Association created the Luggage for Launch program.

A Kiwanis pancake fundraiser supports the purchase of “launch packs,” which cost about US$100 each. Packs include a piece of soft-sided luggage and a plastic tote filled to the brim with dishes, cutlery, dish soap, towels, paper products, laundry items and toiletries. Women from the First United Methodist Church donated quilts.

Providing support to kids of all backgrounds is a priority for the Hy-Noon Kiwanians. The club’s signature project is an awards banquet for the top-10 graduating students at a high school.

“So there we have our high-achieving kids,” Case says, “and with our other hand we’re reaching out to the kids whose high achievement is surviving.”

That support is invaluable for these teens, says Holly Dommer, an aftercare specialist who provides life-skills education and goal-setting assistance through the Achieving Maximum Potential program.

“We do all those things that our parents or someone in our lives had taught us in our past that nobody has taught these kids,” Dommer says.

Recipients are happy to receive the launch packs, which Dommer distributes, as they make a tough transition a little easier.

“It will give them something to call their own and help support them as they become independent adults,” says Dommer.


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