SALT LAKE CITY -- Towels. A first aid kit. Dishes. A pillow. Shampoo.
These are the kind of necessities a college freshman might move into a dorm room, but these items, packed in a 30-gallon tub, are going to a different group of young adults -- former foster children.
A group of volunteers created an assembly line Tuesday to put together Lifestart Kits, tubs with basic household items for kids aging out of the foster care system.
Once a year, Christmas Box International, the state of Utah and Salt Lake County make the kits to be sent to the new adults, who are now out of foster care in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona, said Lisa McDonald, CBI executive director.
More than 200 young adults age out of foster care each year in Utah, and the Lifestart Kits can make a world of difference for a teen starting out on his or her own, McDonald said. This year, CBI assembled 645 kits.
"These little things we take for granted every day are so important to these kids," said Nichole Gunther, a Christmas Box volunteer.
The kits give the kids just one less thing to worry about once they are living on their own, she said.
With bedding, kitchen equipment and toiletries, the costs of all the little things needed to live on their own add up fast, McDonald said.
The kids are really excited by the kits and ask for them, said Pat Berckman, director of the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services.
"It gives them a fresh start, a positive start," she said. "They don't always have support."
Caseworkers tell the stories of what the kits mean to young people aging out, McDonald said.
"One kid in the Price area ran away right before he aged out," she said, "but he took the kit with him. That's how much they mean."
The teens are living on their own for the first time, and most don't have any other outside support.
McDonald said they often don't realize what they need to live on their own and the kits smooth the transition to independence.
Along with kits, mentors offer support and education, and former foster children are doing better than before.
"It's definitely a better outcome. We're getting more kids with jobs and housing. More kids are going to college and able to stay there, which was almost unheard of before," McDonald said.
Nathan LeCheminant, Harrison Brimley and Ben Reese were among the volunteers assembling the kits, the results of an Eagle Scout project.
Between them, they had assembled 320 hygiene kits to go into the tubs.
It was nice to see everything come together, they said.
"It feels good knowing they're going to kids who really need them," Brimley said of the kits.
People who want to donate to or volunteer for Christmas Box International or the Lifestart program may call 801-866-1113 or visit www.thechristmasbox house.org.