Karma for Cara Microgrants help fund exceptional service projects led by youth 18 and under working to better their communities. Read about Marguerite, 13, who started Bag Up the Love, which provides a duffle bag full of toiletries and supplies to kids entering foster care.
1. How did you become involved with Bag Up the Love?
What really inspired me to start Bag Up The Love was a family trip to Roaton, Honduras. The schools there were asking for backpacks full of supplies, which gave me the idea to start something similar closer to home. I’ve always felt like there should be more support for children in foster care, so I knew that whatever my project was going to be had to include them. I read about My Stuff Bag, a group that donates a duffel bag with some care and comfort items for kids entering the system to replace the black garbage bags typically used. I assumed that Sarasota County already had a program like that. I was extremely surprised when I found out that it didn’t, and Bag Up The Love was born. As soon as we got home, my mom set up a GoFundMe page with a donation goal of $1000 (the cost of 50 duffel bag sets), and I reached my first goal fairly quickly. I also got a lot of support from the community leadership training program I attended and decided to continue with the project. So far, Bag Up The Love has donated 100 duffel bag sets (which cost $20 a piece) that include toiletries, a journal/colored pen set for teens, a coloring book/crayons for younger kids, and a small stuffed dog, which means “home” to me. The goal is to eliminate the use of garbage bags, so no child has to feel like their belongings are considered junk.
2. Why is your work important to you?
My work is important to me because I have moved a lot. I’ve lived in five different states. I know how bad it feels to move away from everything you know, and I can’t even imagine having to move without the support of my family. I was able to always pack my things in clean suitcases or new boxes, and I admit I was shocked to find out that the children entering foster care transport their things in trash bags. This was a giant wake up call for me and it showed me that even though I thought moving was upsetting all the times my family did it, the children in foster care have it way worse. I just wanted to show kids and teens in the foster care system in Sarasota County that people care about them. I want to make their transition easier.
3. How did the money from the microgrant help with your project?
This very generous grant will give me so many oppurtunities to expand Bag Up The Love. First of all, I am working with a local bakery who is going to partner with us. I will spend a portion of the grant to buy discounted, customized cookies to sell as a fundraiser. We could keep buying more duffel bag sets with every donation we receive, but we are more interested in sustaining this project year to year (250 plus children enter foster care annually here, so that’s a lot of duffel bag sets). Also, we are going to create flyers to spread the word in our community and do a mass mailing to churches, school groups, etc. We are hoping to share the project with others on a monthly basis, from fundraising, to purchasing, to stuffing, to delivering, so more people can participate and contribute. There are even a couple teens in other cities interested in starting a Bag Up The Love program, and some of the grant money will be used to develop a starter kit for others.
4. What message of giving back do you have for others?
My message is this: If you have anything at all, you have something to share with others. Giving will open your eyes to how much even a small gesture of kindness means to somebody else.