LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A year ago, WDRB introduced viewers to Roo's Wish, an organization started by a Louisville mom who wanted to collect luggage for kids in foster care who are often left with garbage bags to carry their belongings. Now she's working on a new goal: collecting filled stockings for kids in foster care.

Charlene Shipley's basement is filled with stockings, each labeled for a specific kid in foster care. "This year is like a Christmas wonderland. We have stockings every where and I love it," said Shipley.

When we first met Shipley last December, her basement looked similar, but with suitcases. It was her mission to collect luggage for kids in foster care who are often left with garbage bags to carry their belongings.

"We are here to show the kids that we care and they deserve more than a trash bag," she said.

She started with a goal of collecting 100 suitcases. She far surpassed that goal, eventually collecting 2,500.

"I was so afraid of even hitting 100, and then to hit 2,500 was mind blowing. It just shows that this community wants to help. We just need to know how to get involved," said Shipley.

Roo's Wish didn't stop there. In the last year, the organization has remodeled nine foster care visitation rooms around the area, collected 300 pairs of shoes, and luggage donations grew to more than 5,500.

"It's been more than we ever expected," said Shipley.

It was a big year of giving back, but the biggest accomplishment was making her foster daughter, Roo, who inspired the organization, a permanent part of the family.

"She will never be scared again. She will never need again. She will never go hungry again and she has our back forever. She is our daughter," said Shipley.

As Christmas approaches, Shipley is ready to spread holiday cheer once again. The tally marks are back on the blackboard, this time the focus is on a new goal: collecting 500 stockings for children in foster care.

"Our favorite part of Christmas is the stocking, so we wanted to spread that to as many children in foster care as possible," said Shipley.

Donations have been pouring in, which are then stuffed into brightly colored stockings and labeled for each good little boy or girl. "When I look at these names it makes me completely emotional. To know that there's an actual child that really needs to feel special right now and we have the opportunity to give them something to express themselves," said Shipley.

So far, they have collected 255 stockings, but more are needed as more and more children enter foster care.

"Two thousand children have entered in just the last year. That is just in the state of Kentucky," said Dana Deverall with Benchmark Family Services, an organization that places kids with foster families.

She says 10,000 children are now in the system in Kentucky. "Every day I probably get between 20 and 30 referrals of children of all ages that need homes," said Deverall.

Deverall's taking nearly 70 stockings to give out this Christmas. "For some of our kids, this might be their very first stocking, even if they're 15 or 16 years old," she said.

For those kids, Roo's Wish will be there to make sure they know someone is thinking of them.

"I have no idea what's next, but I know we are nowhere near being finished, because this little girl is going to make a big difference in Kentucky," said Shipley.

Roo's Wish collects luggage and blankets year round and is taking stocking donations through November 30. They can be dropped off at Louisville Laser or Learning Express. Monetary donations can also be made through PayPal.

Five Below in Middletown is also collecting for Roo's Wish through Wednesday November 28 when you shop with the Roo's Wish flyer. That can be found on their Facebook page.

More information on becoming a foster parent through Benchmark Family Services can be found here.

Photos provided by Megan Hile Photography


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