500 Backpacks Filled With Essentials For Georgia Foster Kids
CANTON — Five hundred backpacks were filled with essentials Monday at Goshen Valley in Canton to go to Georgia children in foster care.
The free “Comfort Cases” backpacks were put together by Amerigroup Georgia and Comfort Cases. The backpacks are each filled with pajamas, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, an age-appropriate book, a stuffed animal, socks and a blanket, as well as some kind of activity. Children over the age of 10 get a pen and pencil set with a journal, while children under the age of 10 get a coloring book and crayons. In addition to the backpacks, the kids will also receive a 32-inch “Comfort XL” duffel bag.
“My organization gives them a backpack for all of the essential items they need for their first night, plus we give them a duffle bag to carry all of their belongings,” said Rob Scheer, founder of Comfort Cases. “Organizations get to order these for free. There’s no reason to give a kid a trash bag in Georgia.”
Bhavini Solanki, director of foster care for Amerigroup Georgia, said that Goshen Valley has set up a process where “about nine receiving organizations in and around the county will take the backpacks back to their group home/child placing agency and hand the bags out, as well as keep some in storage as kids come into their care.”
Solanki added that “organizations can reorder (Comfort Cases) and it’s important to remind these organizations that they can do so.”
“The opportunity to partner with Amerigroup over the years has been a real difference maker, especially with the launch of our family resource center, as well as having the opportunity to work with Comfort Cases to understand the needs of our foster youth as they transition from home to home and into adulthood,” Goshen Valley Foundations CEO Zach Blend said. “A day like today gives us a chance to work with two organizations that we have great respect for and understanding that the impact is significant.”
Monday’s stop in Canton was the fourth of six stops during this leg of what Amerigroup Georgia and Comfort Cases calls the “Georgia Takeover” tour. The organizations have visited Savannah, Thomasville, Columbus and Canton, with stops in Atlanta and Rome scheduled for Nov. 17 and 18.
At each stop, the organization’s host a “packing party” where representatives of both organizations and the beneficiary help fill the backpacks and load them to then be given to kids and teens in foster care.
“This is a project that we have been working on for a year now and we call it the ‘Georgia Takeover,’” Scheer said. “My amazing friend Bhavini came to me, and we both said that we need to make sure every child in foster care in the state of Georgia no longer has a trash bag that their carrying. Majority of kids that come into the foster care system have a trash bag.”
Scheer added that he has a personal connection to the state’s foster care system.
“We will continue to do road trips quarterly — we’re not stopping because Amerigroup and Comfort Cases have made it their mission to make sure this program is all over the state,” Scheer said. “Kids deserve something new. When you hand a child a trash bag, it truly makes them feel less. I adopted all five of my kids out of foster care. All five came carrying a trash bag. I also grew up in the system and carried a trash bag until I was 18 and became homeless. I know how it makes you feel and it’s not acceptable that we allow this. These kids are our leaders of tomorrow. We must invest in them.”
After this tour of “packing parties” ends Nov. 18, Solanki said, the two organizations will start another tour of Georgia in early 2024.
“We’ve got like 20 organizations that have already asked for dates in the new year,” she said. “We have relationships with folks around the state, so it is important to partner with all of them.”
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