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Comfort

Refurbishing Baby Dolls For Foster Kids Answered Her Prayer: “It’s My Joy!”

Jennie Cullin found new purpose when she had an amazing idea to help foster kids

Those poor kids,” Jennie Cullin, 77, sighed as she and her husband, Jim, watched the local Hudsonville, Michigan, news story about a woman who creates “First Night Bags” filled with pj’s, underwear, toothbrushes and other necessities for kids entering the foster care system.

They lose so much, Jennie thought, and prayed, “Dear God, is there some way I can use any talents You’ve given me to help them?”

When the news ended, Jennie headed to her sewing room — and found the answer to her prayer.

Jennie recalled her own childhood and the dolls she and her big sister carried everywhere for comfort and company. Their mom sewed all their doll clothes and taught her girls how to sew. To this day, Jennie enjoyed making doll clothes for her great-grandchildren. So she had lots of fabric and thread.

Jennie Cullin got busy refurbishing baby dolls for foster kids
Jennie Cullin got busy refurbishing baby dolls for foster kidsJennie Cullin

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Now all I need are some dolls, she thought, and headed to the local thrift store.

Jennie bought three dolls for $2 each. She found other dolls at garage sales. “You’re going to be loved again,” she promised, and brought them home, cleaned them up and began measuring and snipping fabric. After creating wardrobes for each, Jennie reached out to the woman she’d seen on the news, Lisa Hoeve, founder of Hope Pkgs (HopePkgs.org).

“These are beautiful — they’ll make great additions to our First Night Bags,” Lisa enthusiastically told Jennie.

“I’m working on another half dozen dolls,” Jennie told her, and when she delivered the second batch Lisa wondered, “Do you have anything for boys?”

Jennie went back to the thrift store and bought stuffed bears, pups and other furry friends. She washed and restuffed them and Lisa happily added them to her care packages.

Soon, neighbors and church friends learned of Jennie’s project and began searching their closets for their own children’s forgotten dolls and plushies.

With her husband’s help, Jennie boxed each, included clothing, a name tag and handwritten card that read: God has asked me to be your new best friend. So let’s have fun!

Jennie has donated hundreds of dolls and plushies to Hope Pkgs, Christian Services, Eagle Village Foster Care and Rest Haven Nursing Home, where her weighted baby dolls are cuddled and loved by residents with Alzheimer’s.

Jennie's baby dolls for foster kids make a huge impact in many lives
Jennie’s baby dolls for foster kids make a huge impact in many livesJennie Cullin

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And though Jennie doesn’t get to meet the recipients, she does hear how much her gifts are treasured.

“A new foster mom came to us for a First Night Bag,” relates Lisa. “She spotted one of Jennie’s dolls — it was the same doll she’d loved as a child. ‘I absolutely have to take her home with me, my new foster daughter will love her!’ she said, and that’s just what happened.”

Another day, she got a call from a residential foster care facility. “I’m looking out the window at four of our tween residents, and they are each cuddling one of your dolls.”

Jennie’s heart swells whenever she hears about the joy her handicraft brings. “No one should ever be in a place where they don’t have a friend to talk to,” she says. “Even if that friend doesn’t talk back.”


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