Karen Hayhoe can sleep better at night knowing Chippewa County children who might otherwise go to bed without a blanket will get one through a program she founded.
Hayhoe, of Chippewa Falls, started Operation Backpack for Endangered Children (OBFEC) in 2006 to buy items such as diapers, formula, blankets, clothing and teddy bears for youngsters up to age 16 who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. "It's anything to comfort a child within the first 48 hours of the emergency time of removal," she said.
Additionally, OBFEC has purchased car seats to safely transport children.
Hayhoe established a designated seedling fund with the Community Foundation of Chippewa County in 2011. Endowed in 2016, the Operation Backpack for Endangered Children Fund distributes grants to Chippewa County authorities to purchase items for these youngsters.
She has received donations from individuals and service clubs to benefit OBFEC, including yearly contributions from the Chippewa Falls Rotary Club.
"Whenever I need help, people come running," she said. She credited her husband, Bruce, as her biggest supporter. The couple have three children and one grandchild.
Hayhoe doesn't know how many children OBFEC has helped. "The community is there to give them love for a few days," she noted.
She knows the backpack items give children comfort. A Human Services intake worker told Hayhoe about a little girl who received a blanket through OBFEC. When the intake worker saw the girl walking on a sidewalk later that week, the child was holding onto that blanket.
OBFEC gives her "a strong feeling of satisfaction and contentment knowing that children are getting some love when they're going through such a difficult time," she said.
Grants will be used by Chippewa County authorities to purchase items to hand out to children who are taken from their homes during the emergency time of removal.