They say this season is the time for giving. However, if you asked my son earlier this month, he would probably tell you that it means the time of the year when he gets lots of new toys and presents to open! After hearing him shout after every commercial, “MAMA! I want that!” and talking about how Santa is going to bring him this or that, I started to realize that he is learning the wrong things about this time of year. Sure he will get presents on Christmas from ‘Santa’ but I wanted to teach him that there is more to the Holidays, a time for giving. So I set out on a mission to teach him how to give back.
I’m calling his project: The Peanut Project.
So what is The Peanut Project?
It’s simple. Find a way to give back, and share the experience with your little peanut.
Our First Peanut Project:
So here we are, sharing our first project—The Boxes of Love Project—A project to help foster children.
Jaden helped me pick out lots of clothes, books and of course, ELEPHANTS. We sat down multiple times talking together about where these gifts were going and why the children needed them. He even packed them up all by himself and included a hand written note (doodles) to send off to the Children’s hospital.
He may only be 3 but I know he is catching on:
When I picked him up from day care today, his day care provider said to me, “Jaden was so sweet, I had everyone write letters to Santa today and at the bottom it asked, ‘What are you going to leave for Santa?‘ [as in cookies, milk etc.] and Jaden said, ‘I am going to leave some of my old toys for the kids that don’t have any.” Needless to say my heart melted. These little ones really do understand at such small ages.
I can’t tell you how rewarding this small little experience with my son has been and I encourage everyone to start their own Peanut Project and give back with your little peanuts.
[Are you going to do your own Peanut Project with your little one?
Share your experience with us using the hashtag #thepeanutproject]
The Boxes of Love Project
I was lucky enough to interview the founder of the Boxes of Love project
and her story is so inspiring!
Below is my interview with Lyndsee Wunn of Boxes of Love
What is the Boxes of Love project, how did it get started and why did you start it?
Going back….my husband and I struggled with infertility, and it took us several years to get pregnant with our first son, Landon (currently 4 1/2). After we had him, we weren’t able to get pregnant again, and decided to do something different to take our minds off of the stress/sadness. We are both pediatric nurses, and we see on a daily basis the children going into foster care, so we decided to get certified to be foster parents. All of our paperwork was completed on a Thursday and we received a phone call on Monday asking us if we could pick up a 4 week old infant from the hospital on Wednesday! After a quick discussion, we said yes and my husband went to visit him in the hospital later that evening. The baby was born severely addicted to drugs…his mom tested positive for heroin, meth and marijuana at delivery, and she admitted to using heroin every day of her pregnancy. She left the hospital shortly after his birth and never came back.
Eventually his biological father came forward and stated that he wanted to be a parental resource, so we started having weekly visits with him. They never progressed passed supervised visits in the DHS office, as he was not able to do the things required to move past that. It was the most emotional two year journey, and I am making a VERY long story, VERY, very short, but his biological father relinquished his rights about 18 months into the process and we were finally able to adopt our sweet son, Cooper this past May!! He is now 2 1/2 and just the light of our life! He is truly the missing piece that completed our family.
“Spreading the word about the project, is incredibly helpful…
After our adoption was complete, my husband and I sat down to talk, and decided that we were not going to take any more foster children. It was not because we didn’t want to, as I would LOVE to save all of the children, but it is just too much of an emotional risk that we are not willing to take. The DHS system is so focused on placing children in foster care with a blood relative (over a non-related placement, regardless of how long the child has already been with that family), even if it is not the best place for the child. I fiercely disagree with this, and I feel that the DHS system is broken on a fundamental level. I feel like we got so lucky with Cooper. There is a very, very real chance, that we could take a child into our home and have to give them back to a less than desireable situation after 12, 18 or 24 months…after they are completely attached and bonded to us. After they call us mommy and daddy, and we are the only family they know. It is just not a risk that we are willing to take at this time.
Someday, I would love to change the foster care system, and someday I hope to truly be part of that fundamental change. However, with a full time job, two small children, a husband and a busy life, I just do not have time to do that right now. But the decision to not take in any more children really weighed heavy on my heart, and I just knew that Cooper’s adoption was not the end of my involvement with the foster care system. I truly felt like it was just the beginning. So, I sat down and said “what can I do, right now, on my own to make a difference in the lives of foster children?” I kept going back to the fact that children often come into the hospital (or are born in the hospital) and then go into foster care with nothing other than the clothes on their backs. I couldn’t get over how wrong and sad that was, so I decided to do something to change it!
Before I get into the actual project, let me answer a question that I know many people will have, which is why do these children have nothing? For the babies, they are often born to drug addicted mothers or into family situations that are too chaotic/unsafe to take a baby home to. Like we did with our son, foster families come to the hospital to pick up these babies and much of the time they have nothing. Most of these mother’s are not even seeking prenatal care, let alone purchasing new clothes, blankets, diapers and essentials for their baby. When we picked up Cooper, he literally had two outfits that were provided by the hospital and a little Mickey Mouse that was given to him by one of his aunts, I believe. Most babies are coming home to fully stocked nurseries…these babies have nothing. For the older children, they are usually brought into the hospital by either the police, a DHS casewoker or sometimes another family member because of abuse, neglect or mistreatment. These situations are often urgent or emergent, and the children are removed from the home quickly, without time to gather their clothing, belongings or comfort items. They then end up in the hospital with virtually nothing besides the clothes they are wearing, and then later go to a strange new foster home, again with none of the comforts from home. I just could not stand the thought of this and knew it had to change.
“The more awareness I can bring to this and the more support I can gain, the more children I can help!
In May of this year, I started The Boxes of Love Project! I put together large bins of new clothing, shoes, toiletries, underwear/socks, diapers, books and other items for babies and children going into foster care at the hospital where I work. Each box is topped of with a new blanket, stuffed animal, a copy of the book Guess How Much I Love You and a note from me, letting these children know that they are loved and special. The purpose of these boxes are to give the children something to call their own. These boxes, and all of the items inside, belong to them and are for them to keep forever! I want these children to know that they are loved, valued and special, and that they deserve this big box of goodness and love. My hope is that the box may provide a small sense of peace, security, comfort and control during an incredibly scary time.
How is Boxes of Love unique from other charity programs?
I think that Boxes of Love is different from other charities aimed at helping foster children in that all of these items are new! So many times, foster children receive used items. And please, do not think that I have a problem with used things. I think it is great and there are so many wonderful organizations providing used items to foster children, and I love and support those organizations! However, for this project, I wanted to provide brand new items because these children DESERVE it! They deserve it and are worthy of it, and unfortunately, for some foster children, this may be the only new thing they receive.
How has Boxes of Love grown or changed over time?
Boxes of Love has grown exponentially over the past 7 months!! This is bigger that I EVER could have imagined! Truly, I thought I would just start this little project and I would see if I could get some community support to help me along the way. I never imagined the level of love and support for this project could be so big! I think that many people are unaware that children truly go into foster care with nothing, and I think that it really hits a nerve when people find out what is happening. I think that is part of the reason that is has been so successful. People want to be a part of the change and they really believe in my mission and what I am doing. I have heard from people all the way across the country! It is absolutely crazy how big this has become! I have been featured in several news stories, and was also contacted by the publisher of Guess How Much I Love You!! They heard about what I was doing and were so touched by the project, that they donated a year’s supply of books! It just keeps getting bigger and better!!
What are your goals for Boxes of Love over the next three to five years?
My long term goals for Boxes of Love are to expand to the other children’s hospital in town, as well as to all of the hospitals that have NICU’s that place babies into foster care. I would also like to branch out and begin partnering with the local DHS offices, as children are placed into foster care outside of the hospital setting, as well. I would love to be able to provide a Box of Love to all children going into foster care in the Portland Metro area and eventually, all children in Oregon (or beyond! )
How can someone donate to Boxes of Love?
People can donate in a number of ways. All money and donations go directly to filling the boxes!
Check or Item Donations:
Boxes of Love
PO Box 702
Troutdale, OR 97060
Click here to donate through PayPal
In Person [Portland area]:
Items can also be dropped off at the main admitting desk in the lobby of Randall Children’s Hospital.
Need ideas on what to donate?
Take a look at The Boxes of Love amazon wishlist.
Are you interested in volunteering?
Contact Boxes of Love through their Facebook page to be put on the volunteer list.
Jaden’s Peanut Project