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Five questions with Amanda Beck, of Packs of Hope

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What is Packs of Hope?

We help children who are transitioning into foster care. We serve newborn to 17-year-olds. We give them backpacks with everything they will need for the first 24 hours of transitioning into a home because most of the time the kids that are transitioning, they don’t get to take anything with them, just what’s one their back.

It helps the kids because they get new clothes — and everything we give them is brand new. They get clothes to wear, pajamas, toiletries, a book and a toy. But then it also helps the foster parents because they don’t have to rush out and go buy stuff. They can breathe while the child comes in and relax.

We serve seven different counties, from Weld County down to El Paso County — Jefferson, Boulder, Denver, Arapahoe, Weld, El Paso and Douglas. We do on average close to 200 backpacks each month.

Our vision is to bring a little hope and joy into children’s lives during one of their scariest moments. That’s really our goal — to help the kids as much as we can. Michelle Smithing started Packs of Hope 10 years ago and she started it because she wanted to adopt a child. They went through the system in Jefferson County and realized when the kids were coming in that they didn’t have anything. She felt lead, and her heart was broken, to help foster kids.

She went to Jefferson County and asked how to help. She started with a blanket, but then went to the backpacks. Packs of Hope started with 15 backpacks in Jeffco and now it’s over 200 in seven counties and is part of the Foothills Community Church nonprofits.

And what about Golden Packs of Hope?

We also serve the elderly. Golden Packs brings birthday bags into nursing homes. We serve three nursing homes right now. Two in Wheat Ridge and one in Arvada. We bring the packs for birthdays each month and throw a birthday party. Michelle found out that a lot of times people don’t get visitors, so we try to go twice a month to show they are not forgotten. In those bags we put blankets, pajamas and decks of cards or crossword puzzles, lotions…

Why is this cause important to you?

I love orphans. They’ve always had a special place in my heart. And kids in general. I love working with kids. I was a volunteer here one week and I just fell in love with the organization. It’s just nice to know that we can make an impact in people’s lives. I love kids and I just feel so sad that they’re going through hard times and they’re hurt. So it’s nice to bring a little joy the best we can. And with the elderly, I’ve been able to go to the birthday parties. It’s so much fun because they soak up every bit of attention and it’s fun to hear their stories.

What are some highlights of the program?

It’s been neat because the Boy Scouts contact us and they do their Eagle Scout program through us. The most recent one was a 13 year old. He collected 150 backpacks for us, filled, and a ton of extra stuff. That’s really cool for us to see the community coming together and how much they can really make an impact. But one of the things that’s hard is we know that every backpack that goes out means a family is being torn apart. It’s tough to know that.

One of the big things for us is last year we were doing 90-100 and now being at the 200 mark. It is huge, but it’s also very sad. We’re also getting a spike in requests for baby backpacks.

How can the community get involved?

We always need donations. We take only brand new clothes. We want to give the kids nice stuff so they know they are loved. To have something of their own, brand new is really cool.

We give out shirts, pants, sweatshirts, pajamas, socks, underwear and toiletry bags. At minimum we give a toothbrush and toothpaste, but we like to give shampoos, combs, deodorant and feminine products — especially for the teens, so they don’t have to go to the foster parent until they feel comfortable.

And then toys and books. We’re always running low. We want to put a toy of some sort in for all ages and we always feel it’s important to put a book in every bag. We run out of baby blankets constantly as well as diapers and wipes.

Second is volunteers. We love for the community to come in and be part of this.

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