Roughly 60 Rend Lake College students came together this semester to raise awareness and advocate for local youth in foster care. Students enrolled in four different courses participated in the project for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and National Foster Care Month in May.
Together, students enrolled in Dr. Jeannie Mitchell’s Child Psychology class designed T-Shirts, which were sold on and off campus. The $1,200 in profits were used to purchase bags and fill them with essential items for foster children at Spero Family Services in Mt. Vernon. Classes taught by Peggy Davis, Sarah Draper, and Heather Maschoff, also donated items.
Mitchell’s Child Psychology class helped John Shadowens, President and CEO of Spero Family Services, LEFT, and Sandy Sinnett, Director of Development and Public Relations at Spero Family Services, RIGHT, load vehicles with the bags created by their class and others. The RLC students pictured are, in alphabetical order, Brianna Bowlin, Peter Camaione, Mackenzie Campell, Rosemarie Cliff, Quanice Davis, Kathleen Dekriek, Hannah Hubbard, Bailee Huff, Brianna Kelley, Kaylee Little, Autumn Long, Bryanna Martin, Briley Melcher, Madison Nelson, Kennedy Prince, Arianna Reiss, Christina Standridge, Terrilynn Summers, Luke Thompson, Matthew Wallinger, and Morgan Wilson.
(ReAnne Palmer / RLC Public Information)
The donation was inspired by a short film about Rob Scheer, founder of the non-profit organization Comfort Cases, who entered the foster care system at 10 years old. In the film, Scheer spoke about carrying all of his belongings in a trash bag while in foster care.
“Once we realized Comfort Cases wasn’t in our state yet, the class decided to help out local kids by implementing our own project,” said Mitchell.
John Shadowens, President and CEO of Spero Family Services, accepted the donation Wednesday on RLC’s campus. He addressed the students and expressed his heartfelt thanks for going above and beyond.
“When we present [the children] a bag like this, and say, ‘hey, there are a bunch of students who have never met you, who probably will never meet you at Rend Lake College, who are thinking about you. They care about you and they’re praying for you. They’re collecting things for you, with their families and their churches.’ The impact of that is something we can never really know or measure, because it just lets them know they’re not alone,” said John Shadowens, President and CEO of Spero Family Services.
He continued, “You’d be surprised what somebody hangs on to. They’re coming into our care, into the State’s care, at the worst moment in their life so far. They’re full of uncertainty. They think other people have abandoned them and they don’t know what’s happening next.”
Shadowens also praised the students for making a connection with the children at Spero Family Services.
“I’ve spent my whole career, 30 years of it, trying to connect people who have certain advantages and opportunities in life with people who don’t,” he said. “It’s moments like this that overwhelms me. You took this and ran with it. You did it because you wanted to. You’re good-hearted people. Thank you, from my heart, thank you. I will be sure to tell your story of what you’ve done every time one of these bags goes out.”