Imagine moving into a new foster home with only a grocery bag or trash bag to carry your belongings and feeling as impermanent and dispensable as what you hold in your hand.
This past fall, Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Park, TX, strived to help children in foster care know that they themselves, as well as their belongings, have value. To accomplish such, they partnered with Upbring to provide suitcases to youth in our care, so they could regain a sense of hope and carry their clothes and other possessions with dignity.
The impetus for a suitcase drive was an ongoing and future community projects discussion at the church, which had donated school supplies to nonprofits in the past. Church member Ruth Sobieralski, who worked in Indiana’s child welfare system for 30 years viewed suitcases as a pressing need. She contacted a few nonprofits and was eventually referred to Upbring’s Manager of Church and Community Relations, Katie Evans. After learning more about the children served through Upbring’s Foster In Texas and BeREAL programs, Ruth hopes the luggage will provide a source of comfort to each person who receives a suitcase.
“We really felt our parishioners would respond well to the suitcase drive, so we searched for an organization that would benefit from that,” explains Ruth. “We’re so excited our relationship with Upbring to help with current and future needs. In talking to Katie, I felt that sense of collaboration.”
The church community gathered to host the drive and collected about 100 new and slightly used suitcases. On Sept. 18, Father Richard Pelkey blessed the suitcases during the 10:30 a.m. church service.
LaNisha Bell, BeREAL’s Program Director of Supervised Independent Living, delivered suitcases to some of the program’s participants who have aged out of foster care and are transitioning into independence. Upbring’s BeREAL program helps young adults on their journey to self-sufficiency by providing support through education planning, mentorship and Supervised Independent Living such as an apartment while they pursue education and career opportunities.
“Everyone was so surprised and grateful,” says LaNisha. “I know their styles. One of our girls in the program adores Mickey Mouse, and I told her, ‘I know you would love this Mickey Mouse suitcase!’ To be able to offer the suitcases was a real blessing.”
Upbring is grateful for new partners like Christ Episcopal Church that make a large impact in the community. For more information on becoming an Upbring partner, visit Upbring.org/Get-Involved.