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Program makes hard move easier for children

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

To most, it would be impossible to fit all of our valuable and prized possessions into one suitcase.

However, for some children who are removed from their homes by authorities for various reasons, their only possessions are what they can pack up and take with them to a safe environment.

In many cases, these pieces of their life are placed in plastic garbage bags and, according to social workers, many children then view their belongings as trash.

A local effort by the Truckee Lions Club, Kases for Kids, is designed to help the children develop a feeling of self-worth by donating suitcases for them to keep their belongings.

Collecting cases

The Lions Club is collecting donated suitcases, duffel bags or backpacks which they give to Environmental Alternatives Foster Family Agency, a non-profit organization headquartered in Quincy, that helps place children into foster care after they leave their homes.

Each suitcase is given to a child with a name tag on it and a handmade stuffed lion pillow inside.

“They’re all made with TLC,” said Truckee Lions Club Chairman Darrel Larson. “This becomes their property to take with them. They get this forever. A lot of (the children) don’t have anything of their own and this way they get something special.”

The stuffed pillows are handmade by Lions Club members.

According to Peggy Wiseman of Environmental Alternatives, the agency has more than 500 children in foster care right now in 12 Northern California counties.

Environmental Alternatives social workers meet with children in their foster homes each week. They are also there with the children if they meet with their original parents again.

“We act as that link,” said Wiseman.

Wiseman considers the suitcases from the Lions Club a “godsend.”

“None of our children have luggage,” she explained. “This has been such a gift from the Lions. They get their own personal luggage and own soft stuffed pillow. I think it makes them feel connected. It’s a great program.”

Wiseman explained that even the teenagers are so excited to receive a suitcase and stuffed lion of their own and many times it’s the simple things that count.

“Two of the teenagers were very excited. They assumed they had to send them back. It’s just sort of a neat thing they get to take with them,” she said.

Environmental Alternatives office in Truckee places children from Placer and Nevada County Child Protection Services into foster care. Wiseman said that there are many children in need of foster homes, and so few foster homes available.

“It’s the foster parents who make the difference in these kids’ lives, which make the difference forever,” she said.

The suitcases are very much needed for these tough transitions for the children, said both Wiseman and Larson.

“You can donate that old suitcase … knowing that you are helping a kid in your community by giving them a little self-respect with something as simple as a suitcase you no longer use or need,” said Larson.

Kases for Kids is a new Lions Club program that is just starting to spread with more Lions Clubs throughout the state of California, said Larson.

He said that he plans to talk to other clubs in hopes they will adopt the program as well.

Small suitcases, duffel bags and backpacks can be dropped off at Century 21 Don Casler Realty or Dairy Queen, both on Donner Pass Road, or call Darrel Larson at 587-4785 for a free pick-up.


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