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Collect Suitcases for Foster Care Children

by Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Foster care children have few personal belongings. These foster kids usually own a couple outfits, some precious photographs, and a toy or two. When they move between families, foster care kids are often forced to carry these keepsakes in plastic trash bags or grocery sacks slung awkwardly over their small shoulders. Carrying their effects in a trash bag can be embarrassing and yet another reminder of how little these foster care children have in this world.

Hauling unsightly bags to a new "home" isn't a one time occurrence. The majority of children in foster care move from family to family, never knowing where they'll end up. Most move between foster care families two or more times during their stay in the system. Others are not so lucky. In California, for example, one in ten foster care children move five or more times every single year. New foster care parents are likely to find a scared and defensive child at their doorstep, uncomfortably holding a trash bag that carries everything he considers dear.

Foster care children deserve to carry their belongings with dignity and self-confidence. You can help by starting a local suitcase collection drive to benefit the foster care kids in your area. The suitcases you collect will give these troubled children a glimmer of hope during a difficult time in their lives.

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Most people have an extra piece of luggage taking up space in an attic or closet. With just a few hours work, you can collect their unwanted suitcases and help make life a little brighter for children in the foster care system.

  • Step 1 - Decide where to collect suitcases: Consider collecting suitcases for foster care kids at your workplace, church, community center, apartment complex, school, or library. Or, just collect from family and friends. If you plan to hold the collection at a place you don't own, be sure to ask officials for permission before beginning.
  • Step 2 – Publicize the collection-drive: Give people a week or so to find their old suitcases. You can get the word out by placing phone calls, sending emails, making flyers, hanging banners, or posting notices in your local newspaper. Let people know the dates and times they can drop of their suitcase donations and the exact location the collection will be held. The starter kit from Suitcases for Kids can help you publicize the event.
  • Step 3 – Collect suitcases.  You don't need to be present during the collection; just provide an area (such as a large cardboard box or a corner of the room) for people to drop off their unwanted suitcases. Make sure that the designated donation area is clearly marked throughout the collection. At the conclusion of the collection drive, sort through the suitcase donations and discard any suitcases that are no longer usable.
  • Step 4 – Give suitcases to foster care kids. Donate the suitcases to your local foster care agency or make arrangements to give them to one of the foster care organizations or Suitcases4Kids that are actively soliciting suitcase donations. Although you may never see the luggage in action, know that somewhere a suitcase recipient is holding her head a little higher because she sees that someone cares.

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