CASA marks 10 years of ‘Suitcases for Kids’ program

Staff report

October 24, 2013

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Court Appointed Special Advocates’ “Suitcases for Kids of Troup and Heard County,” providing suitcases, tote bags and book bags for foster children.

In 2003, while Vinnie Shank, currently a volunteer coordinator for CASA of Troup County, Inc., was working at an emergency shelter in LaGrange, a young man came to the shelter in the middle of the night with all of his belongings in a black trash bag. He attempted to put his bag down and the bag burst, spilling everything he owned to the floor.

“He cried and I cried,” said Shank.

After helping him gather all of his belongings, she immediately went to her Servant Leader adviser at LaGrange College and shared her experience at the shelter with him. As a nontraditional student and an inductee into the Servant-Leadership program, she decided to make an effort to provide suitcases for kids in foster care, people in homeless and domestic violence shelters and others in need in Troup and Heard counties.

From her research she discovered the program, “Suitcases for Kids,” from an article about 10-year-old, Aubyn Burnside, of North Carolina, who saw the need to help children entering foster care, able yo put their belongings in suitcases. Through Burnside’s efforts, “Suitcases for Kids,” was initiated as a national community service project.

Shank spoke to the students and faculty at LaGrange College about the project, and over 50 suitcases were donated the first week. After speaking to several community organizations, there was “overwhelming continuous support of this project,” she said.

Since then, CASA of Troup and Heard County, Inc., has continuously collected and distributed suitcases, tote bags, and book bags to children in foster care and to other agencies, to assure them something to carry their belongings in if they have to change placements, return home or become adopted.

Over 1,000 pieces of luggage have been donated and distributed to children, adults, and various agencies in Troup, Heard, Meriwether, Fulton and Carroll counties.

“I am grateful to the LaGrange College Servant-Leadership program and the community for their commitment to restoring hope to the most vulnerable children,” said Shank.

If you would like to donate gently used luggage, tote bags or book bags, please contact Vinnie Shank at 706.298.3635 or at 706.845.8243.