Suitcase drive to aid foster children

Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS), a private cancer practice, has partnered with Georgia's Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) to host the Ninth Annual Totes 2 Tots Suitcase Drive for Foster Children.

"The Department of Human Services/DFCS is grateful for this initiative, which has truly been wonderful for our kids in care over the last eight years," said DFCS Deputy Director Katherine Herren.

The suitcase drive on Jan. 14, will deliver new, or nearly new, backpacks and kid-sized suitcases, to foster children in Georgia.

"Because of the generosity of the community, we were able to honor our graduating youth in foster care presenting those off to college with new, three-piece luggage sets," explained Herren. "The appreciation from the youth was indescribable."

GCS officials noted there will be 22 GCS offices participating in this year's drive, including Stockbridge, Fayetteville, Griffin, and Conyers.

The annual volunteer event was first launched Georgia Cancer Specialists in 2003, and was originally held on Martin Luther King Day, in honor of King's vision and philosophy of giving back to the community, according to GCS President and interim CEO Dr. J. Bancroft Lesesne.

The Totes 2 Tots Suitcase Drive is now held on the Friday before the King holiday, as a kick-off to a weekend of service, said Lesesene.

Since its inception, the drive has resulted in the distribution of more than 22,000 bags. The 2010 drive netted more than 4,200 bags.

"We always want the children to leave here with their belongings in [a] suitcase, because they often come here with their belongings in a trash bag, a box, or just bound up," said Jill Holder, executive director of A Friend's House, a non-profit home for children in crisis.

A Friend's House provides sanctuary to foster children from DFCS, many of them under emergency circumstances.

"We ran low on suitcases this past summer," Holder said. "We put out the word that we needed suitcases, and you would not believe the response we got from this community. They filled up our storage area with suitcases."

The Totes 2 Tots Suitcase Drive will be distributed in the counties in which they are collected. Participants are asked to drop off a new, or nearly new, bag on Jan. 14, between 10 a.m., and 2 p.m., at their nearest GCS office. The Stockbridge GCS office, which is located at 1045 Southcrest Dr., Suite 200, will participate in the drive on Jan. 14, from 10 a.m., until 2 p.m.

For other office locations, visit www.gacancer.com, or call 1-877-716-CARE.