Project In the Stars, which helps Bay County teens in foster care, gets an assist from Just for Kids

With a helping hand from a local charitable organization, Project In the Stars was able to wrap up its 2022 “Empower Packs” drive for teens in the foster care system.

Just For Kids, a local charitable organization, lent a hand to help a group of teens fill packs of personal care items to give to Bay County teens in foster care.Grace Wrzesinski, co-founder of Project In the Stars and current John Glenn High School junior, was thrilled when Just for Kids Charitable Organization reached out to her after hearing about her project.

In September of this year, Wrzesinski began her second drive to compile ‘Empower Packs’ for young people in the foster care system; these backpacks contain items that teens need upon entering a new foster home. Each pack contains personal care and hygiene items, as well as notebooks and pens.

However, when her story was published in Route Bay City on Sept. 22, Wrzesinski and her team were still struggling to fund the feminine hygiene items. These products have jumped substantially in price in recent months.

That’s when Maier and Associates’ Charitable Foundation, Just for Kids, jumped at the opportunity to support the project.

“They reached out to me and then donated both pads and tampons, 100 boxes of each for 200 total,” Wrzesinski says.

With the final items in place, Wrzesinski and a group of volunteers were able to assemble the colorful packs on Sat., Oct. 29 in the family barn of In the Stars member Lauren Gallagher.

“There were about 15 people there to help us from my Thespian Troupe 7586, and we were able to fill 210 more ‘Empower Packs’ for children in foster care,” Wrzesinski says.

Gallagher, a senior at John Glenn High School and member of the thespian troupe, says, “I am so excited to see the Empower Packs go off into the hands of those who need them. Knowing that what started as a simple idea has led to groups reaching out and contributing to help us on a larger scale is so fulfilling, because the needs of children and teens in the foster care system is such a prominent issue. Being able to say and know that we are making an impact is something that we are all truly proud of.”

A team assembled the colorful packs at the end of October. Then, they handed them off to the Probate Court, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Foster Families Navigation & Resource Center to be distributed to teens.Exceeding the original goal of 200 bags, Wrzesinski was extremely pleased with how their second ‘Empower Packs’ drive finished off. The first drive in 2019 resulted in 156 Empower Packs being created for adolescents in foster care.

Bags are now being delivered to local agencies so they can get into the hands of young people who need them.

This time around, the Empower Packs will be delivered to Probate Court Judge Jan Miner at the courthouse, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Foster Families Navigation & Resource Center.

Inspired by seeing her aunt take in and eventually adopt children from the foster care system, Wrzesinski and co-founder Maya Linkowski created Project In the Stars in 2019 in hopes of easing the transition for teens as they entered new homes by providing these packs.

The teens were struggling to raise money to buy feminine hygiene items. Just For Kids stepped in, though, and donated 200 boxes of supplies. While Wrzesinski wraps up this year’s drive, she already has her eyes on the future and what’s next for Project In the Stars.

Wrzesinski says, “My plan is to continue on with Project In the Stars by making it bigger and better. We are going to focus on many different projects, including my Empower Packs, as they are needed this coming year…I want to help people all over Michigan with different issues that Michigan residents struggle with.”

Gallagher adds, “I know that Grace, Maya, myself, and the rest of the team are so excited to keep this project running, and having our level of community outreach increase this year not only makes us confident that we have lots of support behind us, but also that we are raising awareness on such an important topic.”
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