A lesson about the important ‘StufF’

The Winnipeg Foundation

Ross family gives back by selling handmade bags.

StufF bags
The Ross Family’s StufF bags. Photo courtesy of Julie Ross.

How do we instill a strong work ethic and a sense of community mindedness in our kids? For the Ross family, the answer involves a treehouse, StufF bags, and a fund at The Winnipeg Foundation.

“What I would hope for the boys to get out of this is that they can achieve what they want to in life, and they can give back to the community,” says Julie Ross, mom to eight-year-old James and seven-year-old William.

In 2017, James and William had big dreams of building a backyard treehouse.

“The boys had many ideas of what this treehouse would have, from trap doors to a zipline. But when asked how it would be paid for, the boys grew very quiet,” says Ms. Ross. “This became a family project, a lesson in delayed gratification and a way to give back.”

Ms. Ross – an interior decorator, fashion designer and former manufacturer of high-end mukluks, helped the boys take inventory in her studio to see what they could make and sell.

“I supported them by taking them to my studio and said, ‘Why don’t we make and sell something out of something we’re not using?’ There was a whole bunch of discontinued upholstery fabric books – when they get discontinued, they usually get thrown into the land fill.”

It’s up to us to educate them and to see the world through different viewpoints and how they can contribute and actually make a difference.

Julie Ross

Instead of ending up in the dump, these beautiful fabrics were paired with a zipper and ‘StufF’ bags were born. The boys clipped threads, added zipper pulls and worked the cash at local craft sales.

The family has sold the bags at a variety of markets, including Third+Bird and the Kenora Farmers’ Market. StufF bags raised enough for the treehouse, which was constructed last summer.

Demand for the bags has continued. To ensure the project continues to support the community, the family established a fund at The Foundation.

“It was fun doing it as a family, now it’s time to give back because we are in a position to do that. It’s great for the boys to see, and it feels good,” Ms. Ross says. “It’s up to us to educate them and to see the world through different viewpoints and how they can contribute and actually make a difference.”

Andrew Ross agrees. “It ties in with all of this: starting the kids young with this sort of thought process, we hope it just gets ingrained in them, to always take charity and helping into consideration throughout their entire lives. It’s going to improve their lives, it will improve hopefully other people’s lives, it will just be part of the process of growing up.”

“In keeping with this learning opportunity there is a vision, and now a fund through The Winnipeg Foundation, to give back to children in our community,” Ms. Ross says.

For info: etsy.com/shop/MakeStufFHappen

You can watch a video of the Ross family’s story at YouTube.com/WinnipegFoundation


“Because more opportunities earlier create stronger foundations later.”

The Ross Family, Winnipeg Foundation donors

Fund: Treehouse Project Fund
Cause: Children, Youth and Families
Supports: Changing needs and emerging opportunities in our community

To learn more about Causes, visit Find your BeCause


This story is featured in the Spring 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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