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Many thanks to all at Saint John’s who supported our school supply drive. We brought fifteen bags of supplies to Lutheran Family Services in mid-July. Please see Sarah’s letter below. She is the Community Programs Coordinator at the Greeley office of LFS and did an informative presentation for our Board in June. I had the privilege of meeting a few of the Somali refugees in Greeley and saw some of the housing where they live. Overall, more than 700 refugee and asylee children received backpacks and school supplies from LFS. I am proud of Saint John’s for contributing to this worthy cause.

Dear Friends,

Just wanted to give a quick update from our LFS Refugee and Asylee Programs office in Greeley. Thanks to those of you who participated in our backpack and school supply drive—especially Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Fort Collins and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley!

Many of you were probably like me: you were blessed to grow up in a good home where back-to-school shopping was a given. It was a fun, exciting time of year. My parents made a day of it, taking my siblings and me to lunch and then to shop with our lists for everything we could possibly need for the school year. My parents were always able to buy us the coolest new backpacks and trendiest folders.

This has not been the experience of the children LFS works with. Many of our children in foster care move into their foster homes with their few belongings in black plastic trash bags. That’s it. Our refugee kids often arrive with not much more than the clothes on their backs. Our youth have experienced trauma and hardship we cannot imagine. They are scared, intimidated and very uncertain about the school year ahead.

So imagine how wonderful it was for them this past week to receive a brand new backpack of their own, with brand new school supplies—and nice, cool, trendy ones at that! Imagine how it feels for them to know so many people care about them, and to know they belong. You truly went above and beyond, and we are so, so thankful. As you can see from the pictures, there is so much joy on our kids’ faces. Our social workers have sent me many emails with anecdotes detailing the exuberance and excitement from the kids as they received the backpacks—little girls recently arrived from Ghana were so excited to receive their first princess backpacks; a family of kids who couldn’t believe all the things inside their backpacks and were treating it like a treasure hunt; teens who put on their own new backpack for maybe the first time ever.

As you can see, you have truly made a difference in the lives of so many children. With your help, this year we collected over 700 backpacks completely filled with school supplies, as well as 264 gift cards to help our youth buy anything additional they need for school. Faithful, compassionate people from all over our state gave to help our kids have a great school year. This was our biggest Back to School Drive yet—and as our programs are growing rapidly and we are serving more kids than ever before, your donations are essential!

We also filled boxes with leftover school supplies and backpacks that we simply did not have time to fill—these will be stored at our refugee and foster care offices to give to students as they come throughout the year. ALL this extra will be gone within a few months with how many children come to us throughout the year. ALL your donations are so needed and will be put to such good use—everything you gave has gone or will go directly into the hands of our refugee or foster youth. It’s hard to express how much of a difference this makes.

Though there is still much uncertainty in many of their lives, you have helped our youth start their year feeling loved and special, helping give them that confidence they need to succeed. You have also very literally provided them with the tools they need to succeed in school this year—and are helping to get them on a path for success in the years ahead as well. You have truly made such a lasting, tangible difference, and we are so grateful for your partnership in serving our kids.

Warmly and with much joy, Sarah Gostenik, Community Programs Coordinator, Lutheran Family Services—Rocky Mountains, Refugee & Asylee Programs

We also donated school supplies to Laurel Elementary. Unlike in the past, this year we donated a variety of miscellaneous supplies. We did not provide backpacks, as the supply for Fort Collins schools appeared adequate. After visiting with the person in charge of the budget at Laurel, they recommended that we may wish to donate money toward their Outreach Fund. This fund is for use at the office’s discretion during the school year to buy clothing and other basic essentials for the needy children at Laurel. The Board of Human Needs donated $250.00 toward this fund. Thanks, again, for your cash contributions as well as specific school supplies. As always your generosity is overwhelming!

The Board of Human Needs finds opportunities for the members of Saint John’s to provide a Christian witness by helping people in the community struggling with daily necessities.