Project to help homeless kids is in 'The Bag'Updated Nov 2, 2017; Posted Nov 2, 2017
By Michelle Dryden
For NJ Advance Media
PRINCETON -- Anupa Wijaya heard the stories: kids are moved to and from homeless shelters or foster care often haul their belongings in trash bags.
Sometimes they lack or leave behind personal care items they needed to survive.
So Wijaya acted, starting the The Bag Project (TBP) about two years ago.
The organization makes three separate types of bags: emergency, infant and activity, to aid children in need as they move among services. She's developed partnerships with a number of organizations to get them to children in need.
"I learned that the discretionary funding of most local organizations went towards transportation costs which didn't allow them much flexibility in being able to systematically provide a duffel bag filled with basic necessities and comfort items to the children they serve,'' Wijaya said.
"As a result of new partnerships, we have already distributed over 1,000 emergency bags and almost 400 activity bags to our partner organizations,'' Wijaya said.
Wijaya says the service is in great demand within the Greater Mercer County, New Jersey area.
"The need is so great and we barely scratched the surface in New Jersey. There are so many more organizations that we haven't reached out to as yet, even here in Greater Mercer County,'' said Wijaya.
Wijaya thinks this project is perfect for families with young children like hers who can go to a local store - it can be a dollar store - and purchase products to fill their own bags to give to other children.
"I was looking for service projects for my young children and I was not able to find anything age-appropriate and not scary," says Wijaya.
"[But] this is a great service project to do as a family: go to your local store and pick up a duffel bag and fill it with age-appropriate toiletries, a book, comfort items and a blanket and know that it's going to another child in need," she says.
The organization has drop-off locations in Princeton, Hightstown, Lawrence and Hopewell.
The bags contain self-care items and comfort goodies, such as shampoos, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, teddy bears, blankets, books, crayons, and so on, are age-appropriate and in many cases gender-appropriate as well.
Emergency and infant bags are for children in crisis, removed from an unsafe home, enters foster care or enters a homeless or domestic violence shelter, she says.
Activity bags are given to children who are waiting for services.
According to Wijaya, the bags are affordable. A donation of $100 can buy about five bags. She encourages folks to visit the bag project website to learn how to donate.
Wijaya said her goal is to reach as many infants, children and teens as possible.
She continues to work with organizations such as HomeFront, Anchor House and the state Department of Children and Families.
Ultimately, "my goal is to be able to provide bags for every child that needs them in New Jersey, and that would be amazing," she said.
Comforting kids in crisis
New Jersey Department of Education Officials Sort Donated Items into Over 100 Gift Bags for Children in Need at The Bag Project in LawrencevilleFor Immediate Release
Contact: David Saenz
Date: December 4, 2017
Lawrenceville, NJ – Today, New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington and Department staff brought boxes of diapers and other items to The Bag Project site in Lawrenceville, and then sorted the donated items into gift bags for children in need.
The Bag Project is rooted in the founder's passion to help children in crisis and provide them with comfort and dignity. The purpose of The Bag Project is to make the transition to a safer place a little easier by providing kids who find themselves in unfamiliar situations with familiar items through charitable donations. For more information about The Bag Project visit their website or contact them at 917-696-2151.
Below are photos and captions of the Season of Service event that are available for public use.
Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington and NJDOE staff joined members of The Bag Project to help sort donated items into over 100 gift bags for children in need.
Anupa Wijaya, Executive Director of The Bag Project, explains to Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington and NJDOE staff how donated books are provided to children across different age groups.
The bags for children include donated items such as a blanket, stuffed animal, coloring book and crayons, full size shampoo and conditioner, children's toothpaste and soft toothbrush, and a comb set.