“We may not ever get to meet, but you’ll always be on my mind. Try to always remember that you are love and you are loved. I’m really glad you’re here, because the world’s better with you in it.”
Writer Jamie Penn scribed such words and will include the notes for a child in the first annual Ban the Bags Fill the Packs drive, set to take place August 13-20. The fundraiser finishes the drive at downtown’s Dram + Morsel on August 21.
“We’re hoping to fill 100 backpacks and welcome 50 to 75 people [on the 21],” Penn tells. The founder of Penn + Creative has partnered with Dram + Morsel to benefit The Foster Pantry and roughly more than 450 children in Wilmington’s foster-care system. The nonprofit is a donation center and vital resource for children in the foster system and families that support them. Penn was inspired to help after meeting Emily Klinefelter, The Foster Pantry co-founder. Klinefelter’s foster-parent journey became the impetus for founding the pantry.
“Emily told us stories of getting a call from DSS [about] a child be[ing] delivered to her in 20 minutes—meeting the social worker at the door with the child, who had no shoes, dirt caked on her feet, [and wearing] what looked like a day-old diaper and adult-sized tee shirt,” Penn describes. “In this instance, there wasn’t even a trash bag with belongings because the child had nothing. Emily and her husband (with two kids of their own) had no diapers in the house and no clothes for her. After several instances like this, Emily decided something had to be done.”
While one of the activities of the fundraiser is writing notes of encouragement to pack inside each bag, they will also fill backpacks with journals and school supplies. Plus, they welcome donations like diapers, formula, baby blankets, toys, toiletry bags, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are among suggested donations. Folks should only bring new items, with the exception of lightly used books. “The Curious Garden,” “Wonder,” “Harry Potter,” “Boxcar Children,” Dr. Seuss classics, or other children’s and YA books are welcome.
“My kids are insane little readers,” Penn says. “They’re big into social and environmental justice, so Dr. Seuss, all the Carl Hiaasen books and ‘Wonder’ all impacted [them]. . . .I think Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein had the biggest impact [on me]. What they did with words and metaphors thrilled me. It made me want to be a writer. I think it made me more attune to others and their inner lives somehow.”
Sponsor Coastal Select Properties, who donates a portion of commission to the community in some way, has made the event one of its beneficiaries for August. “Dram + Morsel is also both the host and a sponsor,” Penn notes. “And [their sister restaurant] Anne Bonny’s made a generous donation.”
While Penn acknowledges shedding light on the global issues of plastic waste, there’s no connection to it with a local plastic bag ban. She hopes the event moniker is enough to encourage families to “ban the bags” (for the most part) from their own homes. At the very least, events like these prevent children from having to cart what little belongings they have in disposable trash bags and provide much-needed supplies for them and their foster families.
“In the end, we decided the phrase served a purpose here as well,” she notes. “It shines light on yet another instance where disposable plastic bags have a negative impact.”
The fundraising and pack-filling event is preceded by a week’s long donation drive at The Husk happening through Monday, August 20. One new backpack is required for entry at Dram + Morsel on Tuesday, August 21 from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Klinefelter and The Foster Pantry will kick off the event with a champagne toast; food and refreshments will be served. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.