TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - In a recreation room at the Donna R. Liggens Recreation Center on Sixth Avenue, volunteers with “Strangers We Know” are hard at work, making and packing backpacks full of necessities for displaced children.
Since January, the 501c3 has partnered with the Tucson Police Department, providing backpacks for officers who are forced to remove children from their homes or parents.
“Just to have something in the car they can whip out and hand to a kid to provide comfort or stability in an otherwise unstable situation can mean a lot,” says Jerrad Trotter, executive director of Strangers We Know.
After working with child services, Trotter witnessed firsthand what a difference even a few simple items like a stuffed animal, toiletries, blankets and a backpack can have on a vulnerable child.
“A child knows their parent,” says Trotter. “So even if the situation is dangerous for them, you’re taking my parent away, I don’t care that you are here to help. So to have a toy or something to hand a kid, it helps bridge that gap to build a rapport, to build trust so that the removal process and placement process is a lot more smooth.”
Many times when officers or family services are forced to remove a child from a home quickly, they end up taking their few belongings in a grocery or garbage bag. Strangers We Know hopes the backpacks they provide can be some comfort during a traumatic time.
“By handing these out, it says (to the children) that you have value, we care about you, and this is something we can give you,” says Tucson Police Detective, Faith Schrouder. “It may not be a happy or joyous moment when it comes into play, but it’s an important moment.”
The program is always looking for volunteers and donations, but right now the priority is low dollar gift cards for officers to buy children hot meals.
"We are here to protect them, even with the basics," says Schrouder.
For more information on how to volunteer or donate, click HERE.