WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - On Wednesday, volunteers in Wilmington delivered about 200 backpacks stuffed with essentials to the Foster Pantry, a non-profit organization that helps foster children in Southeastern North Carolina.
"It's going to be a huge help. A lot of the foster parents aren't prepared to go out and buy everything they need right now," said Derek Klinefelter, vice president and co-founder of the Foster Pantry.
Klinefelter, a foster parent himself with his wife, has seen the need first hand. Of the 20 kids placed with the couple's family, only three of them came with any belongings beyond the clothes on their backs.
Wednesday's large donation was organized mostly by Jamie Penn, founder of Penn Plus Creative.
"We ended up having a lot more than we ever dreamed we would have," said Penn. "We had thousands and thousands of items, so I feel like a lot of Wilmington came together around this."
The backpacks, filled with clothing, toiletries, books, toys, and diapers, were stored at The Husk Downtown Wilmington and Dram + Morsel. Donations were accepted Aug. 13-20, and the volunteers stuffed the backpacks on Tuesday night.
After loading the backpacks into several vehicles, they were transported to the Foster Pantry's headquarters, which is a space rented from another business on Market Street.
"The biggest thing we need right now is funding, because we need a larger space," said Klinefelter. "We're kind of busting at the seams where we are currently. And need to be able to afford the monthly expense of a larger space."
The Foster Pantry will deliver the backpacks to foster children and families by coordinating with DSS and private foster agencies in New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties.
Leaders with the Foster Pantry estimate the approximately 200 backpacks will be completely passed out within a month.
Klinefelter said the opioid epidemic is responsible for an increase in foster children.
"Because of the opioid epidemic, there's been more babies born addicted to different drugs in general, and more influx in opiate addictions," said Klinefelter. "So there's more infants in the NICU that need people to care for them because of that."
Infants born with an opioid addiction need special care, and the MamaRoo baby rocker can help ease their pain, said Klinefelter.
"One of the things that really helps [babies born addicted to opioids] are those MamaRoos," said Klinefelter. "The movement comforts them because as they're going through withdrawals, the sway just helps them out."
The Foster Pantry will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Sept. 30. It is completely staffed with volunteers.
If you want to help the Foster Pantry, they said their current biggest needs are monetary donations, larger duffel bags for older kids and diaper bags for babies.