Project Suitcase seeks to comfort children entering foster care.

Posted Aug 04, 2020
Hays Post

Many children who are pulled from homes because of abuse or neglect leave with only the clothes on their back.

A new program that launched Friday sponsored by the Wonder Women League of Ellis County seeks to provide children with essentials as well as comfort items.

"Traumatized and facing an uncertain future, they are afraid and uncertain. They don't know what will happen to them," said Nancy Jeter, co-chairwoman of WWL.

Each year, an average of 125 children in Ellis County must be removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Members of the Project Suitcase committee with the help of men from Employment Connections delivered 31 duffle bags for children to the Hays Police Department and Ellis County Sheriff's Office.

The duffle bags contain items, including new pajamas, underwear and socks, fleece blankets, snacks, a stuffed animal, personal hygiene products, McDonald's meal certificates, note of support from WWL and a note from a former foster child, as well as a small toy such as a deck of cards, fidget spinner or Rubik's Cube.

Diapers and baby formula will be included when needed.

The bags will be coordinated for appropriate gender and age of the children.

WWL hopes to continue the program indefinitely. Startup cost for the project was estimated at $12,000 with an annual maintenance cost of $5,000 to $6,000.

The WWL received a $5,000 grant from the Heartland Community Foundation to launch the project.

Many other people and organizations helped Project Suitcase get off the ground.

Project Suitcase committee members are Kerry Wasinger, Lisa Ree, Janette Meis, Sara Hicks, Rhonda Meyerhoff and Nancy Jeter

Project Suitcase partners include: Department of Children and Families, St. Francis Ministries, Hays Police Department (Brian Dawson), Ellis County Sheriff’s Office (Scott Braun), CASA, Child Protective Services, Western Kansas Child Advocacy, and Juvenile Services.

Other sponsors of Project Suitcase include Erin and Trevor Giebler, Hamlin Creative Consulting, McDonald’s, eyeSmile Dental & Vision, Pepsi Bottling Group, Color/Cut Salon, RD Graphics, Jeter Law Firm, First Kansas Bank, and the many people who donated pajamas and stuffed animals for the bags.

The official ribbon cutting for Project Suitcase will be at a later date when it is safe for people to gather in groups.

You can learn more about the Wonder Women League on the United Way of Ellis County website. The individual annual membership donation starts at $50. You can join and donate online.