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What a Year 2021 Has Been!

At the end of 2020, Rayola was celebrating a successful year of helping all the foster-care children in Ogemaw and Roscommon counties by giving them packages for Christmas containing a quilt, pillowcase, Christmas stocking, and ornament. For 2021, we wanted to continue to build off the amazing support we'd received, so our board decided that it was time to expand our reach to several more counties in Northern and Mid Michigan. Although we were thrilled to start expanding, we knew we needed a way to organize our growth that would allow us to serve our current counties and our new counties the way we wanted to. We decided it was best to open one county at a time. Our goals for the year were to add six more service counties, to provide comfort items to all the current foster-care children in our counties, to provide comfort items to all new children who come to our counties, and to donate at least 100 duffel bags and comfort kits, and 300 quilts and pillowcases.

Boy were we busy! To add new counties to our service area, Rayola started by reaching out to DHHS workers in the areas to learn more about the children currently in their care. Once we knew how many kids were in an area, we started organizing efforts to create and collect volunteer-made quilt tops, pillowcases, and other supplies for those children. After all the items needed for the children of a certain area were donated, we put packages together for each child and sent them off with love, hope, comfort, and support. In total, Rayola was able to provide quilts and pillowcases to all the children in foster care in Crawford, Oscoda, Iosco, Alcona, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Gladwin, Arenac, Bay, and Midland county. We exceeded our goals in every way! We are so blessed by all the support we've received from members of each of these communities. Our goal of adding a few new areas was achieved as we grew from two to ten counties, and it is all thanks to you!

The best part of all is that once all the children and youth in these counties had quilts and pillowcases, Rayola continued to work with the DHHS caseworkers in the areas to provide items for any new children and youth who entered the foster care system. By the end of the year, Rayola will have exceeded our goal by providing 361 quilts to foster care children. We hope that as we build relationships with caseworkers and volunteers we can continue to provide comfort to any and all children.

To achieve all these goals, Rayola depends heavily on the donations of others. Our board supplements donations by tracking down and applying for grants that help fund our efforts. In 2021, we applied for and received grants that allowed us to purchase more supplies and duffel bags for children entering into foster care. These grants mean that by the end of 2021, Rayola will have placed 152 duffel/diaper bags with foster care children, 52 more than we originally planned.

An extra blessing of donations came this year when we were chosen to be the featured charity of the annual West Branch Quilt Walk in 2021. These donations have allowed us to continue to buy supplies, finish all the beautiful quilt tops you have donated, and make other homemade comfort items. Helping with the quilt walk was so much fun because we were able to share our message, vision, and goals with those who were eager to support us! We heard many stories about how the foster care system has affected the lives of many people in our community and made lots of new friends who want to help in our quest to serve our children.

Rayola has accomplished so much this year and we can't wait to continue to help those in need in the years to come. The children and youth in foster care sometimes feel forgotten and scared. They have been displaced from their homes and, despite the necessity of this, it is a brutal experience. Rayola strives to provide some measure of support for these children. We can only continue to do what we do as others show generosity by donating their time, talents, and resources with us. Thank you for making 2021 such an impactful year for the children and youth in Northern and Mid Michigan. Thank you for supporting Rayola.

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