Published 09 October 2022
A charity supporting children going into foster care by giving them a bag of home comforts has been named as West Dunbartonshire’s Citizen of the Year.
Fiona and Leighann Hennebry set up Bags Full of Love to ensure the process of moving to a new home was less daunting for vulnerable young people.
The backpacks provide age appropriate items including clothing, small toys, comfort items and also personal hygiene supplies.
The charity’s aim is that no young person arrives in a new setting without items of their own, allowing them to start the placement with some dignity and pride.
Speaking at the Provost’s Civic Awards event on Friday evening, where the duo received a standing ovation, Fiona said: “We started the charity after being foster carers for several years and seeing children come into care with literally the clothes they are standing in, and we just wanted to make a difference.
“It is very emotional making up the bags because you know it is probably the worst day of these children’s lives and having this bag is a wee bit of hope for them.”
Leighann added: “We’ve seen kids with next to nothing they could call their own, so we decided we could look into providing something for them to give them a wee bit of dignity when they are put in this situation.
“We don’t get to see the look on the kids’ faces when they open the bag, but we do hear how happy they were from keyworkers, social services and schools and that means so much to us.”
Earlier in the night, the charity also picked up an award for Community/Voluntary (Team) Champion at the celebration in Clydebank Town Hall.
Provost Douglas McAllister said: “Congratulations to Bags Full of Love, who are extremely deserving of the title of Citizen of the Year for the support they give to some of our most vulnerable children. Moving away from everything you know must be an extremely frightening experience and these bags make sure any young person going through that not only has some items to call their own, but also reassures them that they are not alone.
“All of our winners and nominees are so deserving of the praise they have been given, from volunteering their own free time to give opportunities in the arts and sport, to raising awareness about mental health and ensuring our communities are empowered, they are awe-inspiring.
“What makes this inspirational work even more special is that more often than not it is done under the radar without much thanks and so it has been an absolute pleasure to recognise their dedication publicly tonight and show them how grateful we all are.”
Other award winners across four categories were recognised for going above and beyond for West Dunbartonshire.
Lottie Barker was named as Arts and Culture Champion for her work running community arts organisation Clifftop Projects to make the arts accessible to all with weekly art in the park sessions, an intergenerational dance company, theatre trips, art holiday camps and an adult creative club aimed at improving mental health and reducing isolation.
The Sports Champion Award was given to John Joyce, a coach who has given more than four years of his time volunteering his time in youth football, training multiple times each week and setting up the first ever Renton girls football team as well as helping develop boys teams.
In the Community/Voluntary Champion (Individual) category, Colin Hay was named winner for being the driving force behind the Linnvale Community Group, volunteering his time to encourage ideas to improve the area including organising litter picks and a successful community Gala Day.
And Zoe Neeson was crowned Youth Champion (sponsored by West College Scotland) after she encouraged her Mum to set up Look for a Book, a hide and seek style game where children can enjoy reading a book then hide it for someone else to find. Look for a Book now has over 2,500 followers on Facebook and has created a real buzz for reading and the outdoors for young children in the area.