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Lending a hand to children in need

Hope's Bridge launches suitcase drive after viral social media post

  • 2 min to read
Lending a hand to children in need

Hope’s Bridge Resource Center provides a “one-stop-shop” for all of the necessary materials for foster families to quickly create a home for a child in need. They are now asking for the community’s help after a Facebook post went viral.

“We take donations from the community; freely they come in, and freely they go back out. The people that we are serving are bridging the gap in care for children that are within the Child Protective Services system,” Hope’s Bridge Resource Center director Julie Davis said.

Kids oftentimes come to Hope’s Bridge in the middle of the night with short notice. Whether they are picked up on an emergency warrant or a car wreck resulting in a DWI. They also usually arrive with less than the bare minimum.

“Whatever caused CPS to become involved, kids often come with little to nothing possession-wise,” Davis said. “Overnight, we can bridge the gap with full turn-key resources from clothes, shoes, diapers, wipes, baby gear, beds, just about anything. I haven’t had a request we haven’t been able to meet so we’ve been fortunate with a community that really loves to give.”

Diapers, baby wipes and suitcases are always in constant need at Hope’s Bridge, the latter of which has recently received wide media attention after a social media post went viral for bringing awareness to the need for suitcases at foster resource centers. Davis saw the viral moment as a perfect opportunity to show the community that everybody can do something to help a child in need.

“It’s something super tiny and simple to hand down a suitcase, or to hand down your kids’ clothes … It costs thousands of dollars to bridge that gap for a foster almost overnight, making it virtually impossible to make a foster child equal to another child in the home,” Davis said. “If we as a community do that together, then we tell the kids that we as a community are standing with them. It just empowers that kid more to be not another statistic, to be different, to be better.”

Without a suitcase to transport their items in, children oftentimes end up lugging their items from home-to-home in trash bags, diminishing their self-worth and further dampening an unfortunate situation.

In light of the viral moment, Hope’s Bridge Resource Center has kicked off its suitcase drive this week, hoping to receive 30-40 suitcases per resource center location, though they have yet to receive any so far. Davis notes that the Montgomery location alone goes through 20-30 suitcases per month.

“As kids transition from foster homes to grandparents or relative placement, or even back home, we want to make sure that we’re not putting their belongings that we have acquired for them in trash bags. We want to communicate that they’re valuable and that their items are also valuable,” Davis said.

A child will typically move placements seven times during the one year that they will spend in CPS, and suitcases with fun patterns and colors are preferable to make their time in the system seem like less of a negative point in the kids’ lives.

Originating in Montgomery, the Huntsville branch of Hope’s Bridge Resource Center has been open eight months and sees less demand than the Montgomery location, however Davis hopes that the community knows that they are available as a resource. Not only does the volunteer-run non-profit help foster families, Hope’s Bridge also lends a helping hand to families in need within the community or to those who can make the drive in to one of their two locations.

“We try to serve any family that we know and can verify has a need … If it’s another local family that has a need and their child may not be in the system, if we can prevent a child from coming into care by providing basic resources like clothes and shoes and they can spend that money on food, electricity or water, then we want to do that as well,” Davis said.

These families are often asked to prove that they qualify for social services or to have a referral from a school counselor or church pastor.

“We would like to prevent donations from going to Goodwill … If you donate locally, just know that your donations are for the most part staying locally. They’re serving other families of the community that have needs,” Davis said.

To donate, volunteer or inquire about receiving services at Hope’s Bridge Resource Center, visit https://www.hopes-bridge.org.