Jayden Herod, a Papillion Boy Scout completing work on his Eagle Scout rank, learned that sometimes dignity comes in a duffel bag.
In his research, Herod, 15, found something people do not often consider. If a child has to enter foster care — and it is usually under the dire circumstances of abuse or neglect — time is a commodity. Children have to get out of their homes quickly and take what they can.
All too often, their favorite toys, clothes or shoes are stuffed into a garbage bag. Should the child need to go to another location, another garbage bag.
“You give a little kid a trash bag to put their stuff in, it makes them feel like they are not important,” Herod said. “The kids have a life to go through. They have experiences they need to have. We don’t want them to have a miserable childhood to look back on.”
According to Camas Holder, eastern service area administrator of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2,000 children are involved with some kind of emergency services at any given time. About 70 new children, average age 8 to 12 years old, are placed in a foster care program each month.
“Jayden really wanted to do his Eagle Scout project to help these kids,” Holder said.
In coordination with Holder, Project Harmony and the nonprofit company Together We Rise, Herod purchased — and then he and his Scout troop decorated — 20 duffel bags for kids removed from their homes.
The bags are geared toward younger children, which is why Herod and team took to decorating a panel with cute drawings. The panel is attached to the bag, and when the child ages out, they can remove the panel. For many children, it will be their first actual piece of luggage.
“It’s something that belongs to them,” Herod said.
The blue duffel bags were stuffed with a teddy bear, a blanket, a hygiene kit, a coloring book and crayons. Herod said he did not feel his duffels were complete, so he hit up his orthodontist for toothpaste and floss.
The Papillion South High School sophomore donated his bags to the DHHS, who will disperse them through Project Harmony, a nationally renowned program with law enforcement, 120 social workers, hot-line operators, a triage center and experts assembled under one roof to immediately aid children.
It is unlikely Herod will ever meet the new owners of his Scout project donations, but he would tell them to “live your life how you want to live it. Try and make good decisions. Anything is achievable.”