Paper Bag Child

Paper Bag Child
By Nancy Moffett

As children grow up, they also grow out… out of their clothes, out of their toys, out of their strollers, their play yards and high chairs. Meanwhile, many non-profit organizations across the Lehigh Valley are looking for just these outgrown items for the children they serve. Putting the donor and the organization together is the mission of Paper Bag Child.

When Trish Dilg and her family moved back to the Lehigh Valley from Chicago, she was looking for places to donate items no longer needed by her triplet daughters. As she researched organizations that need children’s items, she realized there was no single source to match donations to the non-profits that distribute them. From that need, Paper Bag Child (PBC) was formed as a one-stop place to match donors with organizations that serve children in need.

“There are countless non-profit organizations that impact children, but sometimes it is a challenge to find out where, when and how to donate items,” Dilg explains. With her skill as a computer engineer and the help of her husband Andrew, she developed the Paper Bag Child website (paperbagchild.com) as a way to match items to charities that need them. PBC’s mission statement says it was founded “for the purpose of connecting the community with local businesses in order to fulfill the needs of local non-profits that assist families and children.” PBC also has an online forum for individuals to buy and sell new and used items, but its main focus is on matching individual and business donations to non-profits that serve children.

PBC is connected to such organizations as Camelot for Children, Community Services for Children, Mary’s Shelter, the Sixth Street Shelter, Pediatric Cancer Center of the Lehigh Valley, the Coco Foundation and the Third Street Alliance for Women & Children. Dilg hopes to add Turning Point it its list soon. Clicking on the non-profit’s name or logo brings up a list of items they currently need and provides locations, dates and times for donation drop-offs.

“I wanted to make it simple for people to donate their items and to make sure the items are genuinely needed,” Dilg says, rather than just dropping them off at a resale organization, not knowing whether the items will get to those in need. “We chose charities that directly impact children in the Lehigh Valley that we found as a good fit with the potential users of our site,” she explains. “We work with them to raise awareness, facilitate donations and host fundraisers.”

Local businesses get involved by acting as convenient drop-off sites or by making donations. Those listed in the site’s directory have helped support children’s non-profits by donating time, resources or products. In return, PBC promotes them with listings under such categories as Restaurants, Health Clubs, Kids Activities, Services and more. Current listings include Menchie’s, A Storybook Party, Jack Calaghan’s Ale House, Jelly Bean Town U.S.A., The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Paint Some Pottery, Milk & Honey Kids and more. The business connection has furthered PBC’s goals of highlighting children’s charities while also promoting local businesses.

Dilg chose the name Paper Bag Child because a paper bag of belongings is all some children are carrying when they enter shelters… a paper bag of outgrown clothes or toys may end up lost in an attic or out at the curb… a paper bag of donated items can make all the difference to a child.

PBC is constantly in touch with the non-profits, with caseworkers emailing their needs as they arise. And, when PBC gets information on items someone wants to donate, they send out emails that say, for instance, “I have a Pack ‘n Play playard. Can you use it?” If there’s a match, PBC will arrange for the item to be taken to the non-profit.

Holding events to benefit non-profits is also part of PBC’s mission. For instance, last February PBC held a baby shower at Muhlenberg College for nine moms or expectant moms living at the Sixth Street Shelter. The school’s tennis team volunteered, doing setup, cleanup and entertaining children… Volpe’s Sports Bar provided lunch… Parma Pizza provided kids’ lunches…  Menchie’s Yogurt provided dessert, while Milk & Honey Kids collected donated items and Girl Scout Troop 6846 provided centerpieces. “Putting people together to help children is what PBC is all about,” Dilg explains. “Our goal is to hold a fundraiser each year that benefits each of the sites’s associated charities.”

Another project was to spruce up the Family Resource Center at the Sixth Street Shelter. PBC made a request on Facebook for donations and received beanbag chairs, rugs, books, toys, dress-up clothes, etc. With the help of a volunteer from Cedar Crest College, the room was transformed into several play stations.

On a more personal level, PBC contacted JuJu Baby asking for clothing donations for three girls who lost their home recently in a fire. Another example connected Mary’s Shelter with Mother Baby Naturals (both in Bethlehem) to offer parenting classes to moms at the shelter. “I love when I can make a personal connection between donors and recipients,” Dilg says, “and when someone tells me ‘I have a Trish box in my house,’ meaning another donation.”

“We’re very dedicated to keeping PBC local and are thrilled it’s becoming better known, she says. Spreading the word has recruited a good list of people that have become her go-to volunteers as well. “It’s nice to make a difference,” she notes. “It could be any of us that need help.” And, for this busy mother of three four-year-olds, she says there’s nothing more fulfilling than watching kids’ faces when they receive the things people have donated. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Dilg explains.

For more information, visit paperbagchild.com.

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