Pebbles Thompson and her family came to realize the need to bring hope to children and families experiencing abuse in the Fargo/Moorhead area in February of 2008.
Thompson and her husband Darin were youth pastors in Fargo. Thompson reminiscences being called to do something with pajamas, but didn’t know what that meant. So, they prayed about it for approximately one year which led to her ‘burning bush moment,’ as she calls it. Picturing abused and neglected children in her mind, she started to make calls to her local law enforcement, hospital emergency rooms, and social services pitching her idea to have ‘bags of hope’ available to these kids. Pebbles looked at her community and discovered the fact that children would leave investigative doctors appointments with very little, if any, dignity only compounding the stress and shame of abuse. Through a series of phone calls, she got in touch with the Advocacy Center and put together demo bags for what needed to be included inside.
Initially Thompson says the thought was, “We will just help kids here in Fargo/Moorhead. We will help our local kids. We weren’t going to tell anyone as we just thought our family would do it out of our home, but I did share with a couple of my friends and it spiraled very quickly. It happened organically. It’s not what we thought it would be – it just grew so much faster.” She recalls being involved with every center within North Dakota within the first year and thought, “Well, who else can we help?” Thus resulting in Project Ignite Light.
Ran almost solely off of volunteers, Project Ignite Light provides simple things to restore these children’s dignity and even bring joy in the midst of most dreary circumstances. Their bags are made up of fleece tie blankets, pajamas, socks, underwear, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, some snacks, a flashlight, a book or journal, all within a zipper tote bag to hold their special new items.
Dakota Community Bank & Trust (DCB&T) reached out to Thompson years ago wanting to be involved with the program. Speaking about DCB&T, Thompson says, “I remember being really overwhelmed by their generosity. I remember thinking how incredible it was when they said we want to partner with you. They knew it was a need within our community, within our state and so they said ‘We want to join you and help kids as well.’ It has made a huge impact… literally thousands of kids have been touched because of the work Dakota Community Bank & Trust has partnered with us.”
DCB&T holds an annual pajama drive for Project Ignite Light at each of their eleven branch locations throughout southwest North Dakota. Not only does that result in hundreds of pajamas being donated for the bags of hope each year, but DCB&T also donates $1.00 to Project Ignite Light for each pair of pajamas brought in by the public and their employees. “The leadership and culture within your organization says ‘We want to give back and that we care about what people go through.’ It’s not just about how can we support you financially, but how can we encourage you to be people who care about other people. That is a phenomenal gift to any community,” Thompson says of DCB&T.
Thompson knows how fortunate Project Ignite Light has been because of the overwhelming community support they have received since day one. “Hurting people hurt people. So for every bad thing, you have to flood people with 10 good things. So for us, we truly believe that by standing up and coming together as a community, we are telling these kids that what happened to them is terrible and we want to support them in their time of healing. It is so phenomenal that so many people will come together to do just that,” says Thompson.
The passion that Thompson has for Project Ignite Light and their mission can be heard and felt through her stories. But when asked exactly where that passion stems from, she recalls that while many times she doesn’t get to meet the children she helps because of HIPPA laws, there are still stories of those rare occasions where she does get to meet these kids.
“One time, I was delivering backpacks and my kids were with me. I was kind of nervous because they were pretty little yet, so you are teaching them how to be in this very sensitive culture that we work in. I had a mom come out in the hallway and she said ‘My daughter was raped last night and she won’t let go of her blanket. Can she just come out and thank you?’ And I said ‘Definitely. Bring her out.’ And I was so terrified because my kids were standing there and I didn’t know what shape this poor little girl would be in, or the questions that might follow from my own kids. So this mom brought this girl out. She was so small and so tiny. And I thought ‘Lord, I don’t even know what to say because she has been through something so terrible that I can’t even comprehend.’ I just knelt down in the hallway and she fell on my shoulder and started weeping. And I just began to say anything that spoke words of life. I just said anything I could think of that would overshadow the deep loss, and grief, and trauma that she had been through the night before. After a little bit of time, she went back into her room. My children and I rode down in the elevator, and joined my husband and my other child, who was in the truck who was too young to help, and everyone was silent. We drove for a little while, and then my son from the back seat said ‘Mommy, was that a hurt kid?’ and I said ‘Yeah, baby. That was a hurt kid.’ And he said ‘Well, this is why we do it.’ I thought, in that moment, my kids really get it.” She closed by stating their faces, of the children her family helps, are the driving force behind what she does.
Each scenario she comes across, and each story she hears teaches a valuable lesson in humanity mirroring Project Ignite Light. Often children in these situations are left feeling insecure and unsure of themselves and the people around them. Through Project Ignite Light, they get a small piece of security. Each story represents who they are, what they do, and what they represent as a non-profit organization. To partner with Project Ignite Light to share light in a dark place, visit: https://www.ignitelight.org/.
Written by Lindsey Hefta, Marketing Director