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BUILDING BLOCKS - Pictured (l-r): Joy Tielke of Tielke Sandwiches; Building Blocks executive director Jackie Meyer LIMHP; Tonya Bauman, Building Blocks recruiting and training specialist; foster parents Stacy and Leo Vandersnick; Kent Franzen of First Nebraska Bank of Wayne and Brandon Hall with Winside Sons of the American Legion Squadron #252. The Vandersnicks were honored last month by Building Blocks and businesses in Wayne. Courtesy photo


Lending A Helping Hand To Give Children A Safe Home

Jan 3, 2014 Updated Dec 21, 2021

By Amanda Greger

Staff Writer

An O'Neill family was recently honored by Building Blocks for Community Enrichment and business sponsors in Wayne for their dedication as a foster family and their unique contributions to the children they care for.

Leo and Stacey Vandersnick were among nine couples who received awards during a three-night family dinner theater hosted Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at Miss Molly's Coffee Company in Wayne. 

"We had our first foster child in our daycare three years ago. He was 10 years old and a ward of the state," said Stacey, who owns Little Tots Preschool and Daycare Center in O'Neill. "We fell in love with him. We are so happy we became foster parents. We really do love it."

Licensed for a little over two years now as foster parents, the Vandersnicks have fostered 13 children in their home with some staying only one night to others staying six or seven months.

"I would encourage others to be foster parents because of how rewarding it is for the children and for the foster parents," Stacey said. "You can leave quite an impact on their lives."

Both Stacey and Rachel Kallhoff, Building Blocks program director in O'Neill, agreed you cannot do it alone. 

"You need a place like Building Blocks, the state, counselors, case workers and the school to all work together," Kallhoff said.

Wanting to lend a helping hand, Miss Molly's Coffee Company in Wayne approached Building Blocks in late Fall 2013 asking to partner to spread the word of the need for foster homes across Nebraska. 

"Building Blocks was honored to be chosen for the project and as a result of that conversation three separate but related events began," said Tonya Bauman, Building Blocks recruiting and training specialist in South Sioux City.

The number one reason most children are removed from a home are abuse and neglect, according to Kallhoff. When a child is removed from their natural parents, home and sometimes communities it can be very stressful and traumatic. Building Blocks and Miss Molly's Coffee Company came up with Bedtime Bags.

"Bags were ordered and community members checked them out to be filled with age and gender appropriate comfort items like PJ's, slippers, a book, a packet of hot cocoa and more," Bauman said. 

To add to the Bedtime Bags, Adopt a Teddy Bear was incorporated to provide a teddy bear for each of those bags. The donor names the bear, writes a short personalized message, hugs the bear and sends good wishes to the recipient of the Bedtime Bag.

The two projects came together so perfectly, Miss Molly's and Building Blocks staff decided to host a family dinner theatre to honor foster parents across the state. 

"The story was about 7-year-old Maggie and her experience with being placed in a foster home," Bauman said. "The play reflected her anxiety, 

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