By Johnny Jackson
Wendy Lenz says she is nearly moved to tears each time she tells the story of how an area suitcase drive came to be.
Georgia Cancer Specialists [GCS], a private oncology and hematology practice in Georgia, is planning its Sixth Annual "Totes 2 Tots" Suitcase Drive.
The idea to have the drive came about six years ago as a means to commemorate the philosophy of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., said Lenz, GCS Chief Operating Officer.
"We decided that we wanted to give a day off for our employees on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day," she said. "And we wanted to give them the opportunity to be able to do a service project in the spirit of Dr. King."
One GCS employee, who had been a foster-care parent, made the suitcase drive suggestion. According to Lenz, the employee had noticed that several children had been in and out of her home showing up and leaving with only plastic garbage bags to carry their few belongings.
"[With the suitcase drive,] we give kids something that's theirs to keep," Lenz said. "It's nice to know that things that people do have a real impact. It really is in the spirit of what Martin Luther King wanted - for us to take care of our community through service."
The goal for GCS is to collect at least 5,000 bags during this year's suitcase drive, scheduled to be held from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Friday.
The one-day drive will be held at 25 locations statewide this year. Henry and Clayton county residents can donate to the drive by visiting visit the Stockbridge donation site, located at 1045 Southcrest Drive, Suite 200.
GCS officials are asking people to donate new or nearly new diaper bags, backpacks, or small suitcases. The bags will be distributed to foster children within the communities from which the bags were collected.
Since the drive was created in 2003, GCS's "Totes 2 Tots" has collected and distributed more than 8,200 bags to some of Georgia's roughly 15,000 foster children, many of whom must shuffle their belongings from home to home in garbage bags during frequent relocation.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to support Georgia's foster community, which is often overlooked," said GCS President Bruce Feinberg. "We are thrilled that this event will be the biggest and most productive to date."
On the net:
Georgia Cancer Specialists: www.gacancer.com