Youth in Action donate backpacks and supplies for kids in foster care

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Extension Office • 2503 Rice Lake Road • Duluth, MN 55811 • (218) 733-2870

307 First Street S., Suite 105 • Virginia, MN 55792 • (218) 749-7120

Patty Swedberg
Extension Administrator



April 23, 2018

CONTACT: Patty Swedberg

St. Louis County Extension Administrator

(218) 733-2879

YIA students donate 40 backpacks and supplies for kids in foster care

Youth in Action students from the northeast Range area have been working for months to bring a little comfort to children in foster care. The students have been collecting backpacks and a variety of supplies aimed at helping kids and teenagers in out of home placements.


Students filled the backpacks with items including hygiene and personal care products, coloring pages, crayons and markers, shirts, stuffed animals, toys, Kleenex, and Chapstick. Some backpacks were geared for toddlers and younger children, while others were filled with items needed by teens. Each was accompanied by a brand new pillow.

Earlier this month, the students delivered the backpacks - 40 in all - to St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services staff in Virginia. County social workers gratefully accepted the gifts to pass along to young people in need. 

“It  is heart-warming and refreshing to see the next generation critically thinking of ways they can show care and concern for others in the community," said Dave Schunk, a supervisor in the Children and Family Services Division. "Their thoughtfulness will go a long way in comforting those going through difficult times.” 

The project came about following a planning meeting, at which students talked about the different types of donations that Youth in Action and other groups make to local organizations. YIA members decided they wanted their group to do something new that would involve giving back, on behalf of the whole student body. Offering relief to children in foster care and child protection was an initial idea, so they brainstormed what might help make difficult situations a little better for children going through a tough time. Students felt having comfortable things of their own, would be a good place to start. They began collecting a different type of comfort item each month, give credit to the generosity of the student body, and guidance from YIA coordinators and Northeast Range Adviser, Aaron Donais. Adding in pillows was inspired by the Pillow Project at the Mesabi East school that began as a tribute to former student Corwin Johnson, who'd been very active in Youth in Action. 

In St. Louis County, there are approximately 700 children in out of home placement on any given day.

“It was admirable to watch the students work together while they implemented this project," said Taryn Burnett, Youth in Action program coordinator. "They carried it out with intention and care; along with the hope that they would help make a difficult day for someone else, a little bit better.” 


Youth in Action is a service organization involving students from schools throughout the Iron Range and now in the Duluth area. Its mission is to promote youth leadership and bring positive change to northern Minnesota. To learn more about Youth in Action, visit or call 218-749-7120.

Youth in Action students who helped collect backpacks and supplies, shown L-R are: Sadie Theel, Taina Koivisto, Mylea Laulenen, Maija Maki and Ruthie Morgan.

Youth in Action students delivered backpacks and pillows for St. Louis County staff to give to children in out-of-home placements. Shown, L-R are: Taryn Burnett, Dave Schunk, Brianna Aaser, Jamie Olson, Ruthy Morgan, Mylea Laulenen, Kevin Feldt, Maija Maki, Sadie Theel, Angela Zavodnik, Bryan Johnson and Michelle Brown.