Welcome Boxes Cheer Up Kids in Transition

Family. We need an entire day dedicated to it, said Rachelle Basaraba, HR Manager at Milestone Systems Americas.

While planning the Milestone 2019 Kickoff meetings, management focused on the theme of our company culture being a Milestone family. What developed was a massive team-building day.

Through the process of structuring the event’s agenda, it was quickly determined that a charitable component was needed. My mind immediately went to Portland’s (and the nation’s) devastating foster care statistics. In Oregon, there are a total of 8,432 kids in the foster care system. 1,868 of them are currently waiting for homes. These are the unfortunate children whose parental rights have been terminated, and they are set for adoption.

I had heard of a city in Florida that had resolved its entire list of children waiting for foster parents, and instead had a wait list of families looking to foster! In searching for this, I came across the resource that provided me with the above statistics. They have stats for every state in the U.S.

I’ve known about the foster care needs in Portland for many years. I have friends who help with a program called Foster Parent’s Night Out. It’s an evening once a month where foster parents take a break to cultivate a healthy balance in their marriage by going on a date. I also have friends who volunteer at a camp every summer called Royal Family Kids Camp, which is for foster kids only. The volunteers are rigorously trained and equipped to provide for their needs in a safe and fun atmosphere. Another friend of mine was a DHS (Department of Human Services) worker.

When parental rights are terminated, the kids are picked up and brought to a DHS office. In that office the child waits until the DHS worker can find them either a respite or long-term foster family. The children bring all they own with them, and it’s not uncommon that it’s just a garbage bag with one extra set of clothes – and that’s it.

I had also learned about something called Welcome Boxes. They’re cardboard boxes filled with gender and age-specific items for these kids, such as toys, craft supplies, nightlights, snacks, socks, etc. DHS welcomes (no pun intended) organizations to assemble and decorate these boxes for the purpose of giving a frightened, disoriented child some hope and cheer during a traumatic time in their life, while they sit and wait to be placed with a new family.

I pitched the idea of our annual company Kickoff event including the assembly of Welcome Boxes for foster care children, and our managers were sold on the idea immediately. We kept it a secret from the employees beforehand. On the second morning of our Kickoff we introduced the activity. I’m happy to report it was a hit!

Can you picture 50-year-old salesmen saying, “Please pass me the glitter?” It was a bonding experience for us all! With 150+ of us grouped in teams, we were able to put together 36 Welcome Boxes with many thoughtful, heartfelt wishes for the children. Next year we want to make 150!

By far, the highlight of our Kickoff was this activity. We are still receiving positive feedback and confirmation that it was a favorite aspect of our bi-annual gathering. It was humbling to witness our colleagues coming together in support of the needy, marginalized, beautifully important children of our world.

by Kristi Corno, Executive Assistant to the VP, Milestone Systems

See also Eric McGuire’s impressions of the Milestone Kickoff 2019, as a newer member of the staff.