St. Thomas CCW makes ‘Bags of Love’ for children

Council helps Child Advocacy Center with kids who have been removed from their homes or abused

By Donna Curry

The Kids First Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Loudon County has just celebrated its 20th anniversary of giving hope—serving children who have been removed from their homes as a result of exposure to methadone or who have been abused or neglected.

Often these children arrive at the CAC and then travel from foster home to foster home with no way to carry their personal belongings. That’s where the Council of Catholic Women at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lenoir City comes in. For the past six years, the STCCW has made an average of 12 “Bags of Love” for the CAC per year, and this year they have already made 29 bags.

This project began in fall 2015 as the council participated in a National Council of Catholic Women project and has continued each year since. The CAC reaches out to the STCCW, especially before Christmas, asking for a number of handmade bags that include a small stuffed animal and an age-appropriate book, toy, or game. Often the CAC requests larger bags at Christmas so they can fill them with gifts for the children.

According to their Child Abuse Survivors and Victims Served During 2021 Annual Report, that year they interviewed more than 300 children, and around 70 percent were under 12 years of age. Annual reports show these numbers have been consistent over the past years and indicate the critical need for the services provided by the CAC—and the need to support them through the Bags of Love project.

The STCCW asks for donations of fabric, books, toys, or stuffed animals from its members. The bags are usually the size of large pillowcases with a pocket on the outside and a drawstring at the top. They are made from sturdy, colorful material appropriate for boys or girls and some seasonal material for Christmas.

Allis Hanley, chair of the STCCW Bags of Love project, has made a pattern for the bags so even the most inexperienced seamstress can make them.

“The women of the CCW at St. Thomas enjoy performing this corporal work of mercy for the children served by the CAC,” Ms. Hanley said. “Although many women make their bags at home, we have also had ‘sewing bees’ where several of us bring our machines and enjoy fellowship while sewing.”

At the sewing bees they have made as many as 15 bags at one time.

Chris Evans-Longmire, director of the CAC, expressed thanks for the STCCW service.

“Thank you for continuing to support this ministry. We truly appreciate it, and it’s so nice to place items in your handmade bags for children at Christmas. Also, when children are placed in foster care and come to the CAC for a forensic interview, we use the bags to place additional donations in for the kids. Most of the foster-care kids leave a home with their things literally in a trash bag, and that is unacceptable, so we use your handmade bags for that purpose, too.”

Although the STCCW doesn’t get to meet the children or see their reaction to these bags, the CAC lets the council know what a difference it is making in the lives of these children when they are most vulnerable. That’s what service is all about—making a difference.

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