Julianna Lee was 2 days away from her first birthday when she found herself in the arms of her new forever mother. Adopted from India, and weighing only 9 pounds at 11 months of age, Julianna’s short time “in the system” had left her malnourished and needing someone to love her.
Fortunately, God brought Diana Lee to do just that. Now a thriving, bright and vibrant 15 year old, this 8th grader at Celina Middle School knows the value of belonging to a family, and she wants others to know they belong too.
Identifying the Need
Julianna is the founder of the Belong Bags program. After hearing a true story about a local foster child transporting belongings in a trash bag, Julianna felt determined to see what she could do to change that. “Every child belongs, “Julianna said. “No child is trash. It’s hard enough to feel a sense of belonging when being moved around in the foster system. I want these kids to know they are important.”
And thus was born the Belong Bag.
What is a Belong Bag?
A Belong Bag is a sturdy duffle bag that is available in two sizes. Totally Promotional, based in Celina, has partnered with Julianna on this project, and is the organization doing the printing on the bags. It’s the printed words, that Julianna, hopes will remind each foster child of how much he or she belongs.
“I designed the bags so that they would hopefully appeal to both boys and girls. The word “Belong” is at the top, and then there’s the verse, Joshua 1:9. Be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go. And there’s also the “The C.A.L.L. of Caring” These kids need to know people do care for them.”
Not only is The C.A.L.L. of Caring a reminder of that caring message, but it’s also a connection with C.A.L.L. Ministries in Celina. Julianna presented her initial Belong Bag idea to The C.A.L.L. Ministries Board, who immediately knew that her project fit well within their mission goals.
“As she shared her vision for this ministry, it caught the hearts of all the board members,” said Pastor Tim Clutter, The C.A.L.L. Ministries Executive Director. “When she left that day, the board unanimously decided we needed to support this young lady. She has so much passion, so much charisma; and a heart for Christ and serving others. [The foster care] population is a segment of the population myself and the board members didn’t really know much about. When she came to us, it was a breath of fresh air, as well as, opening up another segment of the ministry we have here at C.A.L.L. Ministries.”
Julianna’s initial presentation to the C.A.L.L board led her to the working partnership with Totally Promotional, and an initial first printing run of the duffle bags.
The bags are being distributed through Children’s Services agencies in Mercer, Van Wert, Allen and Darke Counties. Julianna is hoping to form partnerships with agencies in other parts of Ohio, and expand to other states. The bags are free to each agency, fully funded through donations.
“We have a fund set up here at C.A.L.L. ministries which allows people to donate money toward the Belong Bag project, and 100% of those donations are directed to Julianna’s ministry. “ said Pastor Clutter. Donation options include mail, secure online donations, or donations in-person when The C.A.L.L. is open.
420 N. Brandon Ave
Celina, OH 45822
C.A.L.L. Food Pantry
Julianna is also seeking speaking opportunities in churches, service clubs, Sunday school groups and other organizations, to share her passion and vision behind the program. To schedule a speaking engagement, contact C.A.L.L. Ministries: 419-586-3574 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The bags are not expensive to purchase,” Julianna said. “Even if a person just donates a couple dollars, it can truly make a difference. That donation might not change the world, but it can change the child’s world, causing them to feel like they belong.”
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