On Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 100 people from two Rockville, Maryland, congregations — Tikvat Israel Congregation (TI) and Twinbrook Baptist Church — gathered at Tikvat Israel to assemble “Comfort Cases.” Comfort Cases is a Gaithersburg, Maryland, non-profit organization that provides backpacks or small duffel bags with new essential and comfort items for children and teens entering foster care.
A highlight of the day of service was a presentation by Comfort Cases founder Rob Scheer, who spent his childhood in foster care. Scheer expressed the pain he experienced in packing his personal belongings in a trash bag that he took with him to each new place. When he and his partner adopted four foster children, he said he was surprised to discover that children were still using tattered trash bags 30 years later.
The goal of the Comfort Cases organization, he said, is to ensure the dignity of children entering foster care by providing them with a backpack or duffel bag of their own in which to pack their personal belongings.
Participants filled 123 Comfort Cases with a blanket, pajamas, a stuffed animal, a coloring book and crayons or a journal and pen and pencil set, and toiletries. Each Comfort Case provides the essentials for the first few days in a new place, as well as comfort items to help ease a scary transition. In addition, 70 lunches were packed for a homeless shelter and 40 blankets were created to add to the Comfort Cases.
In another presentation, Jamie Smith, a Tikvat Israel congregant, talked about her experiences in adopting her three daughters. Cantor Helzner led participants in singing songs of freedom and hope. Rabbi Ben Shull spoke about passages in Exodus related to G-d’s four promises of redemption, and the Rev. Jill McCrory of Twinbrook Baptist Church preached about the importance of helping others, based on passages in Genesis and Exodus.
By Felicia R. Black and Amy Matathias