Recently, Church Hill resident Leah Contreras has been working with her family to collect backpacks for migrant children in VA that have been separated from their families. This story has been covered recently by NBC12 and we had some questions for Leah.
Why do you find it important for the people of Church Hill to get involved?
This is an effort that my family and I are spearheading. We are Church Hill residents and have been living here for the past four years. Many children that have been separated from their parents have been brought to Virginia. This is something that everybody in this state and around the country should be concerned about. Church Hill is a family-focused community and it is our duty to make sure that other families are able to be together. This is one small way that we can help. Also, after speaking with many of my neighbors, I’ve heard that people want to do something surrounding this issue but they don’t know where to begin. This is a great way to start!
How will the backpacks be distributed?
My husband and I have recruited many of our family and friends to drive the backpacks directly to Bristow Virginia to the Youth for Tomorrow shelter. I have been working with the staff there and they are expecting our donation after July 21. We will personally see that all the backpacks are delivered. They help over 800 children a year so our goal is to collect 800 backpacks filled with supplies. Senator Kaine went and viewed the shelter recently as well.
Are there other ways besides backpacks where people can get involved?
If people are not able to donate backpacks, neighbors can either help us drive the backpacks up to Bristow or they can make monetary donations and we will go and purchase the items for more backpacks. We are not a nonprofit. We are just a small group of concerned citizens and this is our first effort locally.
How will you know if the packs have been safely delivered to the children and their parents?
We will take pictures when we bring them to the shelter. Unfortunately, we are not able to take pictures with the children for privacy reasons. However, we will take pictures with the staff and at the facility. As close as they will let us get.
Can people write notes to the kids?
Yes, I think that that is a wonderful idea. Probably best to write them in both English and Spanish if possible. Just to clarify these bags are going to the children, not to the parents. The shelter likes to give each child a backpack of supplies to take with them when they are reunited with their family.
So what about local children? Would you consider doing a drive like this locally?
Many groups provide things like this for local kids in foster care. One is called Comfort Cases. Pasture restaurant has done a drive in the past. I don’t think it has to be an either or. We saw a need and wanted to do something to address it. I would love to do one for local kids in need if there was interest from the community.
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If you would like to donate a backpack to this cause we have a list of drop off locations here:
Jefferson Davis Flea Market
5700 Jefferson Davis Hghwy
N. Chesterfield, VA, 23234
Bella Italia Restaurant
6407 Iron Gate Plaza
Chesterfield, VA, 23234
Congregation Or Ami
9400 W. Huguenot Rd
Richmond, VA, 23235
416 E. Grace St
Richmond, VA 23219