Georgia Cancer Specialists hosts annual Suitcase Drive

Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) is soliciting support, once again, in providing for needy youths around Georgia.

The private cancer practice has partnered with Georgia’s Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) and WSB-TV to host its 10th Annual Totes 2 Tots Suitcase Drive for Foster Children.

Totes 2 Tots delivers new, or nearly new, backpacks and child-sized suitcases, statewide, to foster children, from infants to teenagers. The children often must shuffle their possessions from one foster home to another in garbage bags, during frequent relocations, according to Yolanda Oglesby, a medical assistant at the GCS office in Stockbridge.

Totes to Tots was originally held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as a way to honor King’s vision and give back to the community, said Oglesby. It is now held on the Friday before Martin Luther King Day as a kick-off to a weekend of service.

GCS has offices throughout metro Atlanta, who plan to participate in the suitcase drive, in which residents are asked to donate the new or nearly new bags, which will be delivered to foster children throughout Georgia.

Oglesby said bags of all sizes, including diaper bags, are needed to assist those youths who might, otherwise, transport their belongings in paper grocery bags or plastic trash bags.

Since GCS first launched the drive in 2003, the annual volunteer event has collected and distributed more than 25,000 such bags. Oglesby noted that the GCS office in Stockbridge collected 175 backpacks and suitcases in 2011, and hopes to improve on that number this year.

“Hopefully, we’ll get more than 200, this year,” Oglesby added. “I am hoping we get a greater response this year.”

The GCS medical assistant said whatever is collected locally remains local. She said the Stockbridge office delivers its donations to the Henry County DFCS office, which distributes the bags throughout the county.

“It’s a good community service,” said Oglesby. “You’re giving back to kids who are already going through a hard time. It gives them a chance to start over with something fresh. It gives them the opportunity to have something of their own.”

To participate in the drive, drop off a new or nearly new bag, between 10 a.m., and 2 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 13, at the nearest GCS office. GCS officials noted that local offices participating in this year’s drive include: Fayetteville, Griffin, Conyers, and Stockbridge. The nearest office, in Stockbridge, is located at 1045 Southcrest Dr., Suite 200.

“Totes 2 Tots captures the spirit of Georgia Cancer Specialists, and our practice-wide commitment to helping others,” said GCS Chief Operating Officer Wendy Hawke Lenz. “By hosting the event to launch the Martin Luther King weekend, we believe that we honor Dr. King’s dream as we provide tangible reminders to the foster children in our state that someone cares about them.”

“The Department of Human Services is extremely gratified to all those involved with the Totes 2 Tots initiative,” added DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese. “The program represents compassionate recognition of the trauma often involved for children impacted by the child welfare system.

“Having a decent traveling case or overnight bag to carry a child’s belongings may seem like a small thing, but, in reality, these totes contain not only quickly gathered items,” Reese continued, “but the fears, uncertainties, hopes, and dreams of children caught in a whirlwind, not of their own making. I thank those who contribute and encourage all to consider being a part of this program.”

For other office addresses, visit www.gacancer.com, or call 1-877-716-CARE (2273).