For the lack of a simple suitcase, hundreds of San Fernando Valley foster children go from home to home carrying their clothes and personal belongings in black trash bags.
"I've only had one child in 12 years who has had a suitcase," said Kathy Field, director of the Children's Bureau of Southern California Family Visitation Center in North Hollywood. "When we pick them up, oftentimes their stuff has been thrown in a garbage bag or plastic grocery bag. It's very, very sad."
However, the situation will be improving, because of the efforts of Brownie Troop 812 from Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Encino. Last week,, the troop delivered about 40 suitcases, duffel bags and backpacks that were collected for foster children.
Linda Tanzi Jackson, a troop co-leader, suggested the idea after reading a magazine article about a young girl who started a suitcase donation program for foster children. Jackson, who volunteers monthly at the center monitoring visits between foster kids and their biological parents, thought it would be a good community service project for her troop.
"We wanted to teach them about compassion and empathy for children who aren't as fortunate as them," Jackson said.
The idea was well-received by the 23 Brownies.
"When I told the girls about it, you could have heard a pin drop. And this is a chatty group of girls," said Jackson, whose daughter, Tanzi, 8, is in the troop. "They were so interested in it."
Anastasia Alvarado, 7, who collected three suitcases, said her family donated their "biggest and best one" to the cause. She said her mother was so inspired she intends to continue the effort as a family project, soliciting friends and other family members for suitcases.
Collecting suitcases was a first for Sarah Galarneau, 7, who said the project makes her want to do charitable work again.
"We gave four suitcases that were in my closet. I would rather give it to them. There's something else I can use," Sarah said.
Field said the suitcases will make a difference in the lives of foster children.
"To have your things all in one place gives a sense of security," she said. "Even if they're small, they'll be used."