CHIPPEWA FALLS — After starting a campaign last September to address a need for more foster families in Chippewa County, organizers say they’ve added 10 new foster homes and three new respite homes have been licensed.

Michelle Golden, Chippewa Falls school district director of human resources, said the kickoff of the event featured 150 people who represented a variety of organizations across the community.

In 2014, 28 children were in foster care in the county. Because of meth and opioids, that number spiked to more than 200 in 2018, according to data from the county’s Human Services Department.

Golden said there have been several events and fundraisers in the past nine months, raising money and donations such as blankets, clothing and supplies.

“The staff at the Chippewa Falls Middle School assembled 100 duffel bags for children who are removed from their home,” Golden wrote Thursday in a news release.

Carly Rubenzer, a middle school staff member who has also adopted children out of the foster care system, said people don’t realize how little these children have when they are uprooted.

“When a child is removed from a meth home, they are unable to bring anything with them because it is contaminated,” Rubenzer said.

In January, Robyn Lee and Chelsea Reese formed a nonprofit organization named Beds 4 Kids, in which volunteers constructed twin beds and bunk beds for children. They constructed eight of the beds during an event in April.

Serena Schultz, Chippewa County foster home coordinator, expressed thanks for the community’s support.

“We are thankful to all of those who have contributed to the foster care program here in Chippewa County,” Schultz said. “We are so lucky to have a generous community that prioritizes its youth’s needs to truly make a difference. The hard work, dedication and love for these children does not go unnoticed.”

Chippewa Falls schools Superintendent Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos said she’s thrilled with the progress but more work needs to be done.

“There are still many ways for community members to get involved,” Taylor-Eliopoulos said. “We continue to look for loving homes to become licensed as foster or respite providers. There is an on-going need for clothing, diapers, and wipes for children who are removed with no personal belongings. And, we need mentors for children of all ages. Our youth can never have too many loving, positive adults in their lives. Relationships are the difference-makers.”

Another fundraiser will be Saturday. The Steppin’ Across Tilden for a Cause 5 mile walk will benefit Chippewa County foster children. Registration is available at both Dougies and Bresina’s in Tilden.

To learn more about becoming a foster family in Chippewa County, contact Kari Kerber at 715-723-7736.