As her education moved online and her dance class was canceled, Roseburg High School junior Marin Gray used her newly found free time to help out disadvantaged children in the community.

“When children enter into foster care, when they’re awaiting placement, they often come with few belonging — other than what’s on their back. If they are given anything to carry their belongings in it’s usually a plastic garbage sack,” Marin said. “Obviously, this isn’t a very big symbol of hope for these children and I wanted to do something to change that so I partnered with Every Child in order to mobilize communities to donate duffel bags for these children instead.”

Marin called it the Hope Totes initiative. Each bag also includes a note letting the child know they are loved and supported.

“The biggest thing we see is their self-esteem just skyrockets when they get this,” said Debbie Horton, executive director for Every Child Douglas County.

Marin raised more than $6,000 for the initiative, which has helped bring hundreds of bags to foster children. On Monday, she received a $2,000 donation from P3 Health Partners.

Roseburg High School’s Interact Club has chosen Hope Totes as its community service project, which is expected to raise another $500.

The project is administered through the nonprofit organization Every Child Douglas County, a partner of the Department of Human Services, which provides emotional and tangible needs to the foster community.

In her feedback from caseworkers, Marin learned the older children are especially appreciative of the bags, as many of the things foster children receive are geared toward young children.

Marin said the bags helped her be able to spread more awareness about foster care.

“A lot of people think of foster children as younger kids who need teddy bears and coloring books, and that is something the Every Child provides, but oftentimes the older kids aren’t as supported and we want to make sure that they are supported as well.”

Marin is the youth advocacy and outreach leader for Every Child Douglas County and helps create social media content and speaks about the role of the organization. It’s also how she learned about the needs of foster children.

Donations for Hope Totes can be made to Every Child Douglas County or by contacting Marin Gray through her social media platforms.

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