By Benjamin Joe
For the second time in two years, NCCC will be hosting SUNY’s “Got Your Back” comfort bag preparation volunteer event for those fleeing from violence and trauma.
Currently, the Niagara Community College Wellness Center, the NCCC Alumni Association, student life and student housing are partnered with SUNY to make victims’ flights easier by providing essentials for their stay at a shelter or hospital. The groups are asking individuals to volunteer from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the second floor cafeteria of the student center at NCCC’s Sanborn campus.
According to a press release released by NCCC, “Every day in New York, adults and children seek assistance from hospitals, rape crisis and domestic violence shelters. Often, they come in with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Money that shelters and other response organizations spend on personal items is money that they are not spending on other crucial costs. Instead, SUNY’s ‘Got Your Back’ and NCCC will fill these comfort bags with items such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, body wash and so much more.”
“SUNY, State Universities of New York, received money to purchase all the bags and all the things that go in them for a comfort bag,” said Cheri Yager, supervisor of the Wellness Center. “They reached out to all the SUNY campuses, and of course, we agreed to do it. Last year was our first year, and we made 4,000 bags!”
In addition to personal hygiene items, Yager said volunteers will pack a support card.
“The first thing they’ll get is a support card,” she said. “There’s a message on the card and people sign it. Then there’s a towel, shower kit, toothbrush, toothpaste, vanity kit, tissues, deodorant, crayons, pens, notebook and stress-ball.”
“They come with whatever the clothes on their back,” Yager said. “They have nothing, so this at least gives them something to start with and they can feel better because they’re a little cleaner. They get a message of support and they can feel emotionally better. There’s also a resource card that will tell them where they can get help.”
The last event was from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Though the current one is only over two hours, Yager expects a good amount of volunteers, because, “Who would not help?”
Also, it’s fun.
“It’s so much fun! It’s so much fun for such a good cause,” Yager said. “You can go through, make a bag, go back and make more bags, keep going through and make more!”
The way the bags are put together is very organized, she said. The volunteer starts with writing a support card, grabbing a bag off one table, going down a line picking items out of bins, then getting each bag weighted to a specific weight, meaning that all the items are in it.
“It’s really quite organized. Once it’s weighed and approved, there’s a certain way you tie the bag, and it’s put into a box (for distribution),” Yager said.
The comfort bags are distributed by SUNY, statewide. Anyone who wants to volunteer is encouraged to get in touch and sign up online at http://niagaracc.suny.edu/alumni/got-your-back.php. However, Yager said everyone is welcome whether they register or not.
“Victims of domestic abuse and sexual abuse is a problem that is very touching to most people’s hearts,” Yager said. “Whether you know somebody, or had it happen to you, or a family member, or a friend. It’s, unfortunately, way too common – and it’s horrific. It affects everybody, not just the victim, but their children and the people around them, and the community. Providing a comfort bag is just one small thing that we can do to help women, and men, and children who are victims of violence.”
All questions on the event can be answered by contacting Cheri Yager in the Wellness Center at [email protected] or calling 716-614-6275 for more information.