Love in Action: Greene family collects 243 bags to give to children in foster care

Kristen Greene met the 2- and 3-year-old girls who would become her adopted daughters in February 2013 in a mall parking lot, in front of a Sears store. The toddlers came to her and her husband, Nick, with all their belongings in a trash bag. Broken toys, torn coats and no personal items made up the pitiful collection the toddlers clutched.

After fostering for nearly two years, Kristen and Nick Greene adopted the two girls. Today, Amely, 9, and Stephanie, 8, are happy to tell anyone, laughter on their faces, that their mama got them at Sears.

As the Greene family has grown – they’ve since had two biological children – the picture of those two little girls in the mall parking lot holding trash bags has never left Kristen.

Last year, Kristen wanted to do something to impact other children in foster care. She began filling bags with hygiene items, blankets, pajamas, stuffed animals and other basic things that can offer some comfort to children as they enter foster care. With the help of family and friends, the family donated 48 bags last year.

Kristen remembers well how her daughters fell asleep that first night in her home still wearing their new coats and snow boots, unwilling to take them off even though their little bodies were sweaty.

“In the beginning, when they were falling asleep holding onto their stuff, the big thing they’d cling to was their blankets,” Kristen said. “The first day we got them, my mother purchased the blankets. From seven years ago to now, they sleep with those blankets. That’s why the blanket is the staple item in the bags that we make.”

This year, wanting to continue the tradition they began last year of giving back and supporting other children in foster care, the Greene’s efforts grew tremendously. People and businesses in the community began to hear about their bags, they have a Facebook page called “Caring for Kansas Kids,” and donations poured in.

With an original goal of 50 bags, the Greene’s chiropractor, Dr. Marcus Deaver of Art of Life Chiropractic, challenged them to double that number and promoted their efforts on social media.

Just a week before Christmas, their doorbell was ringing steadily as more people dropped off bags and lots of gifts. On Dec. 22, 2019, Kristen and the girls announced on Facebook that they were able to make 243 bags. It was a family affair to get the bags packed, and Amely and Stephanie are quick to help.

“They love it,” Kristen said. “We get these super-cool toys sometimes, like a light-up unicorn. Stephanie hugs it, and she says, ‘Someone’s really going to love this.’”

With the increased interest, Kristen is considering filing the Caring for Kansas Kids as a nonprofit organization. She just wants to make sure fewer and fewer children show up at someone’s front door with all their possessions in garbage bags.

If you’re interested in supporting the Greene’s efforts, Kristen can be messaged through their Facebook page. Learn more about their foster care and adoption journey below.

Meeting Amely and Stephanie

It’s the holidays, and we’re feeling a little Hallmark movie-ish, and as Kristen talked about efforts to support children in foster care, she shared the day that she and her husband, Nick, met Amely and Stephanie.

She and her mother-in-law, Billie, picked the two girls up in a mall parking lot, and waited as the car door opened to reveal “the cutest little Hispanic babies I’ve ever seen,” Kristen recalled.

At 2 and 3 years of age, the girls were nervous, but they hugged Kristen and climbed into her car, sitting in the new car seats that Billie and Kristen bought just before the girls arrived. The woman who brought the girls – the case manager for Youthville hadn’t been able to be there – brought Kristen up to date on the toddlers.

“She told me they were scared of water, nowhere near potty trained, they didn’t listen,” Kristen said, adding that the woman said she had problems saying Amely’s name so she had been calling her Emily. It was a lot to take in, but Kristen was immediately smitten.

“I’m calling Nick, and I’m like ‘Nick, they’re beautiful.’ I was like ‘Babe, we have to keep them.’ He said, ‘Honey, we don’t know. We have to make sure it works.’ He’s the more reserved one.

“I get them home, bathed and fed. They were in their new snow boots, jackets, hats, gloves, and refused to take them off. They fell asleep with them on. Their little bodies were sweaty,” Kristen said. “Amely kept asking, ‘Where the daddy?’

“Nick’s truck is big and loud because we’re ranchers, and Amely says, ‘What’s that?’ I said that’s the daddy. It was like a Hallmark movie. You’re so prepared for the worst. They ran screaming ‘Daddy’ and wrapped their arms around his legs. He just looked at me and goes, ‘Okay, we can keep them.’”

The girls call their official adoption day on July 8, more than a year later, their “forever and big ever day,” and that’s what goes on the cake every year when the family celebrates.

It hasn’t been easy at times. Both girls have struggled to adjust, and hid food, clung to their possessions, and have had behavior problems. For a long time, they’d pick their food into tiny pieces to make sure there were no maggots in it.

Kristen and Nick wouldn’t change one thing about the beautiful sisters who make their family whole. They’ve since had two biological children, Atha and Wilder, and their home is full of laughter and joy. Most days.

“We’re not perfect and we have our moments,” Kristen said. “They’re in therapy, but we get through it. All of our families in the past year, both mine and Nick’s side, have talked about how they’ve come so far. It’s incredible.”

Picture of Beth Cormack
Beth Cormack

Beth is the project manager for the Saint Francis Ministries Marketing and Communications team.

Share this article:

Join Our Mailing List

Sign up to receive regular updates about Saint Francis Ministries.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Articles

Skip to content