Safe Haven Foster Shoppe Featured in Pioneer Press!

When a child is placed in emergency foster care, this group offers bottles, clothes and comfort. You can help.

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The call to Anita Olson came one night about two months ago. A child protective services worker was placing two toddlers and an infant in emergency foster care, and she needed help. A police officer had found the children, ages 3, 2 and 1, in the back seat of a car on Interstate 35E after pulling over their intoxicated father. They were wearing only diapers. “They had nothing else,” Olson said. “They were going into placement, and they didn’t even have an outfit to put on them to move them to where they needed to go.” Olson agreed to meet the worker and the children at the foster home where they were being placed. She brought a diaper bag and two backpacks filled with diapers, wipes, baby bottles, outfits, underwear, pajamas, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, blankets, books and stuffed animals. Olson is the executive director of Safe Haven Foster Shoppe, a non-profit organization that provides essentials to children in foster care and comfort during a difficult time. The organization, which serves 13 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, has helped more than 2,000 foster children since Olson and her sister, Terra Bastolich, founded it two years ago. They moved their headquarters to Lindstrom in Chisago County last summer and their storefront is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays for people to either donate items or volunteer. “I’ve fostered about 30 children, and every single one of the kids came in with nothing,” said Olson, a licensed foster-care provider who lives in Isanti. “They needed things to be able to go to school the next day, or to go to bed.”

‘SOMETHING THEY GET TO CALL THEIR OWN’

Safe Haven Foster Shoppe provides items for newborns to 18 year olds. Every item is brand-new and delivered to the child or children at their foster home in a new backpack or diaper bag. Teen bags include additional items such as sports bras and feminine hygiene products. “It’s a very hard time in their life,” Olson said. “They are ripped away from everything they know. They might get picked up at school, and they don’t get to go home. Not that this is going to make up for it, but at least it gives them something. It says, ‘You matter. You make a difference. You’re important.’ Some of them come from really bad situations.” The children and teens take the bags — and their contents — home with them or to their next foster placement, Bastolich said. “Everything goes directly to the children, not to the homes,” Bastolich said. “It’s something they get to call their own. They know, ‘This is mine, it’s brand-new, nobody else has ever had it before.’ Often the children coming into those homes are already traumatized, and to have to wear hand-me-downs can make it even more challenging, especially with teenagers.” Outfitting teens can be especially hard, so volunteers work “to try and stay current” on fashion trends, Olson said. “We don’t want to give teenagers something that Grandma would wear,” she said. “We want to make sure they’re getting things that they’re going to actually enjoy because otherwise we’re doing this for nothing.”

500+ BAGS IN ONE YEAR

Safe Haven volunteers shop the clearance racks all year long and stock up on Black Friday. “Look at this,” said Bastolich, holding up a light-blue backpack decorated with pandas. “Someone got it for $2. It’s amazing the sales that people find. We have the best bargain shoppers on our team.” The backpack was the first item Bastolich selected while “shopping” for a 6-year-old girl’s placement pack this month in the organization’s Lindstrom headquarters. Next on the list was a fleece blanket. Bastolich sifted through dozens of them before finding the perfect one, decorated with unicorns. A 10-pack of underwear, also decorated with unicorns, was added to her stack. Next came hot-pink leggings decorated with silver unicorns. “I have two little boys, so I especially love to make the girl bags and shop for little girls,” Bastolich said. Once all the items were collected, Bastolich faced the daunting task of packing them into the light-blue backpack. “It’s like a game of Tetris to try to get everything to fit in,” she said. Each packed bag is valued between $60 and $100. Last year, the organization packed and gave away more than 500 bags.

FOSTERING IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

Olson and her husband, Josh, have four children. Their son, now 5, was adopted through the foster system. He has lived with them since he was 2 days old. “We just really love kids,” Anita Olson said. “After having three of our own, we decided we really wanted to help other kids. We have a home, and we have a lot of love to give. We figured if we could bring them in and give them just a period of time where they are able to stabilize their life a little bit and help out, then why not?” Olson and Bastolich’s parents, Marty and Gail McGuire, of Wyoming, Minn., adopted their brother after fostering him, and their maternal grandparents, Ray and Gloria Westling, were longtime foster-care providers in Kanabec County. “They took in teenagers,” Bastolich said. “They felt that they could really help with the older kids and be mentors to them. A lot of people don’t want to take in teenagers, so there’s a huge need.” Many of their former foster children, now in their 50s and 60s, still “come back and visit them and keep in touch,” she said. Olson and Bastolich operated Safe Haven out of New Hope Community Church in Isanti for two years before moving to downtown Lindstrom in June. Olson said landlord Michael Haehnel offered the organization a discounted rate on the 1,200-square-foot space and also donated the use of a 800-square-foot building in December for their holiday drive.

DONORS LEND THEIR SUPPORT

Cindy Herrmann, of Wyoming, stopped by recently to drop off dozens of pairs of brand-new pajamas and toothbrushes — $200 worth — that she and her extended family had either brought to Thanksgiving dinner or purchased on Black Friday. “We pick one organization each year to support,” Herrmann said. “I feel that it’s important to teach our kids to give back.” Herrmann adopted her son, Malachi, 16, when he was 6 after fostering him. “They all want their own things,” she said. “You get taken from your home — you want nice pajamas and a toothbrush that is yours.” Renee Kirchner and Christina Vollrath, who work in human resources at Chisago County, also dropped by Safe Haven on a recent Wednesday. They brought $2,365 in checks, which county employees raised during a holiday-basket raffle. Olson gave them a tour of the donation center’s infant room, which included a bin of brand-new baby bottles. “Did you know the Holiday in town doesn’t sell baby bottles?” she said. “At 2 in the morning, there is nothing out here that is open, which makes it hard if you are placing an infant. It’s different if you have a 5-year-old who is hungry, because you can go through the McDonald’s drive-thru. … That was our goal: You don’t have to run out and buy anything. Everything is in the bag: a bottle to feed them, baby food, wipes, fluoride-free toothpaste.”

OFFERING NECESSITIES AND COMFORT

Social workers or foster parents can fill out an online form on Safe Haven’s website with specific instructions as to age, gender and sizes. Shoes, boots and winter wear also are available. Nowhere on the backpack or bag does it say “Safe Haven Foster Shoppe.” “I don’t want a child googling, ‘Oh, what is this? Oh, it’s from a charity,’” Olson said. “We want them to fit in with their peers as much as possible.” Olson and Bastolich seemingly have thought of everything. One bin in the donation center, for example, is filled with night lights and flashlights. “A lot of kids are in a new home, so having that extra light for them can be a comfort,” Olson said. “It’s really about anything that can comfort them.” About 150 children and teens are in out-of-home placement in Washington County on any given day, said Sarah Amundson, manager of the county’s Community Services Division. Handling and storing donated items for foster children can be difficult, so having Safe Haven volunteers “step in and provide some of those basic needs is really nice,” she said. “Because when a child-placement happens, it can sometimes happen very quickly.” A delivery of a packed diaper bag means a foster parent can get through “that first night without having to run out to the store right away,” Amundson said. “It also means a (social) worker won’t have to scramble and find those things when they’re trying to talk to foster parents and work with kids and prepare everyone for a placement.” Social-service workers are able to access placement packs at Safe Haven whenever they need. Foster children also are invited to go to the donation center and “shop” in person. “Not everyone wants to foster kids, and that’s OK,” Olson said. “This is a way for people to really give back and get involved and support the kids in our own community.” When a 12-year-old foster girl arrived at the Olsons’ house earlier this year, Anita Olson said she had everything she needed. “She was bawling,” she said. “She had just gotten picked up at school and was super-disheveled. I was able to hand her an entire bag and send her into the bathroom to shower. She didn’t have to ask me for anything.”

FYI

The Safe Haven Foster Shoppe Holiday Hope Bag Drive runs through Dec. 31. Donated items must be new with tags; items can be dropped at the organization’s headquarters at 12765 Lake Blvd. in Lindstrom, or at one of 19 other drop-off locations listed on the organization’s website. Financial donations can be made online. For more information, go to safehavenfostershoppe.org.

Mary Divine

Mary Divine is a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She covers Washington County and the St. Croix River Valley, but has also spent time covering the state Capitol. She has won numerous journalism awards, including the Premack Award and the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists’ Page One Award. Prior to joining the Pioneer Press in 1998, she worked for the Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin and at the St. Joseph, Mo., News-Press. Her work has also appeared in a number of magazines, including Mpls/St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business Monthly and Minnesota Magazine. She is a graduate of Carleton College and lives in St. Paul with her husband, Greg Myers, and their three children, Henry, 18, Frances, 16, and Fred, 13.

Safe Haven opens new foster “Shoppe” distribution center in Lindstrom, Minnesota!

IMG_9358.jpeg Safe Haven Foster Shoppe is excited to have expanded to a new headquarters location in Lindstrom, Minnesota.  This location will serve as the main distribution center, and “Shoppe” for social workers and foster children to visit!  The Lindstrom location will service the many remote locations currently already in place across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.  Additionally many volunteer opportunities are available at the new Lindstrom location; from organizing inventory, packing bags and hosting fundraising events.  The new location also offers a much larger space for groups to come and visit the location; or host group and corporate give-back volunteer bag packing events. Safe Haven is growing quickly, now servicing foster children in over 10 counties and agencies across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.  This new location is a major growth initiative for SHFS, and allows for our program to expand to the next level to service more children, and offer more volunteer opportunities in the community.  Our mission is near and dear in the hearts of so many, and we are excited to offer an amazing space right in the heart of the Lindstrom community. The new location will host an open house on Friday, July 12th from 1pm – 7pm and encourages all social services staff, foster families, local volunteers and anyone interested in learning more about our mission to attend.  We will also be open through the weekend of Karl Oskar days, hosting donation drives, T-shirt sales and bag packing volunteer opportunities. New location: Safe Haven Foster Shoppe 12765 Lake Blvd, Lindstrom, MN 55045-9342   Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/371426630396876/

Join us for the 1st Annual Safe Haven ONE Event – Oct. 13th 2018 @ Route 65 Pub & Grub in Isanti Minnesota.

SHFS_Route_65_Event_Flyer.jpg Safe Haven Foster Shoppe has teamed up with the Route 65 Pub & Grub to host the 1st Annual “ONE” Charity Event – All proceeds benefit local foster children. ONE donation ONE big impact ONE child at a time The event will be a fun filled day of family friendly activities all benefitting this great cause, supported by our local community. Event is FREE. Beer Bash Tickets available for $20 (Advance $15)  BUY NOW! – BEER BASH (2-6pm) – SILENT AUCTION – PUMPKINS – LIVE MUSIC – KIDS GAMES – $5 BURGER BASKETS – CORNHOLE TOURNEMENT – T-SHIRT SALES – BAKE SALE – COAT DRIVE (bring a NEW coat to donate to a child in need) And more!!! If you are able to provide donations or sponsorships, please message us or email info@safehavenfostershoppe.org

Why we do what we do – A Story of a Foster Child

iStock-857763024.jpg Safe Haven Foster Shoppe was formed with a mission to help children in foster care.  Everyday we spend our spare time devoted to running this organization, which includes many tasks, from fundraising, to bookkeeping, to bag packing and deliveries.  We personally pack each bag, specific for a child coming into care.  We “ohhh” and “ahh” over all the amazing donations, and get so excited about the items we place in these bags.  As we do this we think of the child; we envision their situation, and we hope that these items can help them at a difficult time in their life. The majority of the time, what we do is a “thankless” task.  Our donors, volunteers and supporters donate time and money, with nothing more than the notion in our hearts and minds that we know… we are helping a child.  We don’t witness this, but we know what we are doing is helping. And that is enough to motivate us each and every day to do more. But… sometimes we get to experience a little magic of our own, through the gift of a story shared by a child.  At a recent foster care appreciation dinner, I had the privilege to meet a very special little girl.  I noticed her, watch our video, over and over.  She would come back to our table, and watch again… and again.  As I said hello to her, she looked up at me with bright eyes and shared her story.  “I got one of those bags” she said.  “I sleep with the blanket every night.”  I was stunned, this was my vision… to help precious children like her.  I was speechless, but she deserved a response.  I said to her, “How did you like it?”  She said, “I used every singe item, and still do.  Thank you!” I share this story, for this precious little girl; who deserves the world; and the children we help every day and every day in the future.  Also, I share this story for the volunteers, donors, and supporters of Safe Haven Foster Shoppe; thank you for what you do.  We are making a difference!  And although, we don’t generally get to meet these special children, know the magic you are creating with our mission. Terra Bastolich – Co-Founder of Safe Haven Foster Shoppe
(Stock Image:  istock 2018)

Safe Haven Foster Shoppe chosen as charity partner for the Great Inflatable Race Minneapolis! Join us April 28th!

RACE_PROMO 2018 (1) Safe Haven Foster Shoppe was chosen again to be the charity for the Great Inflatable Race Minneapolis. It is a family friendly race and fun for all ages! REGISTER for the race using promo code: SAFEHAVEN and receive 10% OFF. – Easy fun run with inflatable obstacles – All ages – Support the Safe Haven Cause to help children in foster care – Free swag at Safe Haven booth – Register using Safe Haven code – Volunteer to help support us at the race We are also in need of volunteers, and sponsors for the race. About the Race: https://www.thegreatinflatablerace.com/Minneapolis Volunteer here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/60B0E4FA5A72FA5F49-thegreat/31668495

News Release: The Post Review – Safe Haven Foster Shoppe having bag drive for foster children

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Safe Haven Foster Shoppe having bag drive for foster children

Published August 23, 2017 at 9:24 am

http://ecmpostreview.com/2017/08/23/safe-haven-foster-shoppe-having-bag-drive-for-foster-children/

There are approximately 428,000 children in foster care in the United States and around 11,000 children in Minnesota.

Sisters Terra Bastolich and Anita Olson wanted to help foster children during the difficult transition of entering foster care in Minnesota. They co-founded a nonprofit organization in January called Safe Haven Foster Shoppe.

“The inspiration for it came from myself doing foster care in Isanti County,” Olson said. “We kept seeing this repetitive pattern of these kids coming into foster care with only the clothes on their back.”

The Safe Haven Foster Shoppe is 100 percent volunteer based and creates bags for children when they go into foster care. The sisters collaborated on what specific items these kids really need, and each bag provides specific items for the child’s age and gender.

Safe Haven is having a “Back to School Bag Drive” until the end of August, which allows businesses and individuals to donate a bag for a child in foster care. First, they choose what age and gender for the bag, and then they build the bag with new items (tags must be on the items). After the bag is full, Safe Haven Foster Shoppe is contacted for a drop off location.

“Everything we put in the bags is 100 percent brand new. We want to give the kids a sense of worth and let them know that they mean something,” Olson said. “It’s never the kids’ fault for being put into foster care.”

The bags include a new outfit, pajamas, socks, underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, a blanket, a type of toy and a stuffed animal. Baby bags have diapers, wipes, bottles formula and a pacifier.

“The goal of Safe Haven is to get these bags to the foster home as soon as possible so the family doesn’t have to run out and get items right away,” Olson said. “The bags are delivered to the county social worker or directly to the foster home.”

Safe Haven Foster Shoppe currently services Isanti, Chisago, Pine, Washington, Sherbourne, and Anoka Counties. They also service St. Croix County in Wisconsin.

“We service these counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but we will service any foster home that reaches out to us,” Olson said.

Olson is the executive director of Safe Haven and works directly with the counties and their staff. Bastolich is the board president and does the marketing and social media for the organization.

“We work with some local businesses that supply us with staple items,” Olson said. “We obviously need financial donations as well, and we will take individual items like cloth diapers, blankets and toys. Safe Haven is growing fast because there is such a need for these kids going into foster care, and our mission is we do not want any child going into foster care empty handed.”

For more information about Safe Haven Foster Shoppe, go to https://safehavenfostershoppe.org.

Safe Haven Foster Shoppe Mission

SHFS with tagline-2.jpg Thank you everyone who has already supported us in starting this mission.  We need to keep spreading the word, and growing our support!  We can all make a difference in the lives of foster children!  Just a quick update to remind everyone of our mission! We developed a program like no other,  our bags are unique and personalized for each age and gender.   We work with individual counties family services departments as well as private organizations to hand deliver each and every bag donated.  With new laws being placed to protect children and grants approved for counties to increase staffing that means there are more kids in need than ever before.

We want no child to enter foster care empty-handed.  Please LIKE, SHARE, FOLLOW and SUPPORT our Mission!