Athens Review, Athens, Texas

April 9, 2013

Uprooted children

Rainbow Room organizers ask for help with brown bags

Jeff Riggs
The Athens Review

Athens — There are many children throughout the U.S., and certainly Athens, who do not know what turn their lives will take next.

Terri Budow, Chairman of the Board for the Henderson County Community Partners Rainbow Room, said that often children that have existed under such circumstances are physically filthy and need to be washed.  They may be hungry, and certainly in need of emotional feedback.

“Generally, the case is that the child is taken from the courtroom, and the child only has what they have on their backs,”  Budow said.

According to Budow, the reasons that children are taken from their homes could range from physical abuse to the child, or perhaps some other endangerment.

“We have a lot of meth lab cases,” she said. “There is a meth lab, or perhaps meth use.”

That’s where the Rainbow Room comes in.  Children are taken to the facility at the Henderson County Community Partners Rainbow Room at 420 Athens Brick Road.  There they are introduced to caseworkers who are employees of the state.

“These are scared children, and even if they are scared where they have been, they don’t know where they are going, when they first get to the Rainbow Room,” Budow said. “The court will order a child to be taken into protective custody.  The child is whisked away from the court room during a hearing to determine their parent’s capability to care for the child.”

Budow said that sadly, sometimes the children taken from their parents are only one-day old.

Inside the Rainbow Room are stacks of shelves with bins containing well-organized clothing and necessary items ranging from car seats to preemie diapers.

In a news release, Budow explains just one event of many that has made the Rainbow Room a valuable asset.

“I just happened to be at the Rainbow Room for a removal of six children, ranging in age from 12 years to 2.  Four of the children could not be placed in the Athens area, and they had to spend thenight at CPS the previous night because the only family to place them with is in South Texas. There are no local families available to take these children right now.

“When I met them, they had already been bathed and dressed by the caseworkers in new clothes and new shoes from the RR.  They each had a big, blue RR bag stuffed with items to take to their new foster home.  They were adorable, but scared and crying.  We went back to the RR to see what kind of toys we could find to cheer them.  Each of the girls wanted a Pillow Pet, and the little boy took a stuffed toy, held it to his cheek, and began sucking his thumb.  By the time they left for South Texas, they each had two toys and smiles on their faces, if not also a little apprehension.

“Seeing this sort of situation brings home what we do to an incredibly personal and emotional level.  It made me so thankful to be part of this.”

Budow said Child Protective Services caseworkers have luggage-type bags containing items for the children. The bags may have a number of things children want or need, such as stuffed animals, toilet rolls, shoes, clothes, backpacks or bedding.

Regardless of the need, the supply is not unlimited.  That’s why the volunteers of the Rainbow Room are engaging in a major fundraising effort to gather funds, and/or items for their brown bags which are ultimately given to children.  They are carrying out the project as a part of April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, but the drive is ongoing.

“We are so heavily-dependent on the charity of Henderson County, and they have always answered the call more than generously,” Budow said. “We have about 175 brown bags for people to pick up, and return to us with items that are among the needs list, stuffed inside the brown bag, and brought to the Rainbow Room.”

When the bag is given to the donor, there is also a donation form for tax purposes.

Budow said the brown bags are mostly distributed to retailers and churches for collection of goods.

“Someone may have  a charitable notion to pick up a bag and fill it,” she said.  “If shopping is not convenient, money is always appreciated.”

Checks made out to Henderson County Community Partners can be mailed to Henderson County Community Partners Rainbow Room, 420 Athens Brick Road, Athens, TX 75751.