SHERIDAN — When children are placed in temporary shelter upon fleeing abuse or violence at home their faces show fear, confusion and often emotional shutdown.
Advocacy and Resource Center Executive Director Bonnie Young sees those faces often.
“They don’t know what to do. They’re scared, and they kind of block off what’s going on, just go into a world of their own,” Young said.
Sheridan resident Rachel Borgialli hopes to make that world and that unfamiliar place a little less scary starting next week.
Borgialli and an “Action Team” of volunteers from First Baptist Church in Sheridan will assemble 30 Bedtime Bags and donate them to the Advocacy and Resource Center to be given to children being placed in emergency shelter.
The bags include a stuffed animal, reading book, coloring book, crayons, puzzle, toothbrush and toothpaste donated by Bighorn Pediatric Dentistry, and a Thrivent Financial T-shirt that can be used as a nightshirt. The bags themselves will be backpacks donated by Thrivent Financial, a nonprofit Christian financial service.
Borgialli is a new member of Thrivent Financial, which provides funds each year to help members make a positive impact on their community. She used $250 donated by Thrivent to purchase items and gathered an Action Team to assemble the gifts.
The donation ceremony for the Bedtime Bags will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church.
Local Thrivent Financial consultant Scott Brastrup said Thrivent strives to serve communities through programs like the Habitat for Humanity builds. Action Teams are the company’s way of encouraging its members to meet needs and be generous.
“This is Thrivent’s way of saying, ‘You can do the same thing. We’ll provide this money for you. You just need to go out and do something,’” Brastrup said.
“This is what Rachel’s passionate about,” Brastrup added about helping Borgialli plan her outreach. “That’s what the Action Teams are intended for.”
Borgialli got the idea for Bedtime Bags after watching a video about the Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter in Sheridan. In that video she learned the shelter housed 16 families with children last year. Her heart went out to those kids.
“I thought, ‘How cool would it be for them to get some kind of gift as they’re settling in for the night, something to give them a little comfort,’” Borgialli said.
When Borgialli found out the homeless shelter would close before her project date, she turned to the Advocacy and Resource Center and found a grateful recipient.
“Even though the shelter is closing, there are still kids in the community who need to be reached out to,” Borgialli said.
The emotional — and physical — scars children receive from observing or experiencing violence are horrendous, Young said. While a stuffed animal or toy can’t heal those scars, it can provide comfort when a child’s world is turned upside down.
“What feels good to us when they come in or when we take them somewhere and give them a stuffed animal or present, they really grab hold of it,” Young said. “It’s a gift, and I think that reminds us that they’re still children, and they can still enjoy gifts, and sometimes for them that little distraction is really important.”
The Advocacy and Resource Center provides temporary shelter for men, women and children fleeing abuse. When possible, victims are housed with family or friends, and when funds and situations allow, ARC staff try to find permanent housing solutions. In the meantime, however, shelter is temporary and often lasts only a few nights.
“It’s not like they’re going to stay with family and friends and have a good time,” Young said. “Everybody is somber and concerned and stressed. It’s pretty rough.”
Furthermore, after a night in shelter, kids must go back to their normal life. They must get up in the morning and go to school where they are expected to learn, participate and play even though their home is in turmoil.
Young hopes the Bedtime Bags will make the nights — and days — a little better since the gifts will help children know there are people in the community who care about them.
“I just wanted to give back in an unexpected way to my community,” Borgialli said.