Fill a duffel, fill a heart

Northern Michigan foster children benefiting from new charity


NORTHERN MICHIGAN — The Mio Department of Health and Human Services recently received a donation of 14 duffel bags from a new charity aimed at providing foster children with possessions to call their own.

Amanda Goodson started the Arenac County-based charity, called Fill a Duffel, in early July. Goodson said after she visited a faith-based event, she felt a need to give back to her community.

“After doing research I found a lot of kids going into foster care have nothing but the clothes on their backs,” she said. “Sometimes even that isn’t adequate, and it broke my heart.”

After looking at various national groups that run similar charities, Goodson realized instead of contributing to something that already exists, she could start her own program. She said after looking at what those charities provide, and at what cost, she thought she could do better than they do.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’m a pretty thrifty shopper,’ so I just started shopping,” Goodson said. “(I) hoped that people would donate to the cause to help offset the costs of what I put into this.”

As of now, Goodson has done no formal fundraising for the initiative. In spite of that, using her own money, in addition to a $2,500 donation from Dan and Michelle Meihls of Arenac County, she has donated neary 140 duffel bags to nine DHHS offices in Northern Michigan. Since starting the program she said word of mouth has been the only way she’s gotten the word out about the charity, and she has been occasionally receiving donations. When asked if she ever expected to be running such a successful charity so quickly, Goodson said she had no idea the initiative would flourish as it has.

“The question alone brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “This started as me hoping I could give away a few bags in Arenac County. The fact that so many people see this as such an important thing is so much to me.”

The bags Goodson sends out are broken into three age groups: baby, youth and teen. Each group receives different personalized items. Baby bags are filled with a blanket, stuffed animal, personal hygiene items and a book. Youth duffels are filled with a similar host of items, but instead of a story book they hold a coloring book and crayons. The older children receive a more durable duffel bag that is large enough for them to travel with. It also comes with a similar group of items, but includes a journal and gel pens instead of a stuffed animal.

Goodson said she can fill an entire duffel bag for less than $20. She said the smallest donation can make a larger difference than one would expect. A single dollar is enough to provide shampoo or soap, and $5 is enough to provide a child with a blanket. She said after starting this program she was shocked to learn what kind of things mattered most to foster children.

“Some individuals I come across have told me it was the little things like underwear or socks and blankets that meant the most to them,” she said. “… We want to give local kids some love and show them they, and their possessions, have value.”

Goodson’s goal is to continue to grow her charity throughout Northern Michigan. If anyone is interested in donating to Fill a Duffel, find it on Facebook by searching for it by name. She said those interested can also call the charity at 989-820-5122. Goodson said monetary donations are best.


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