Service project aids foster kids


The staff of the NCWorks Career Center in Rocky Mount gaveluggage and toiletry items to the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services in Tarboro as part of the 'Luggage of Hope' service project.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

TARBORO — The harsh reality is that many children who move around in the foster care system often have to carry their possessions in garbage bags or nothing at all.

In an effort to help young people who are faced with these obstacles, the state Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions, the NCWorks Career Centers, including the NCWorks Career Center in Rocky Mount, have participated in an initiative called the “Luggage of Hope” service project.

The drive provided suitcases with some essentials to foster children as they prepare to go to their new homes. It was done in conjunction with Strong Able Youth Speaking Out, a Durham-based statewide nonprofit group directed by youth currently or formerly in the state’s substitute care system.

Reports said the NCWorks Career Center in Rocky Mount collected more suitcases and toiletries than almost any other location.  Even while helping job seekers and employers in the area with the state’s highest unemployment rate, employees at the center were dedicated to the service project, state officials said.

On Monday, staff of the local NCWorks Career Center gave 15 pieces of luggage or suitcases and several bags of toiletries to staff of the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services. Yvonne Winston, foster care supervisor for the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services, said the agency has 62 children in foster care and most of the the time they just have plastic bags to carry around their belongings.

Reports said county service agencies in the state sometimes struggle to supply children with much-needed luggage. Winston added Marva Scott, director of Edgecombe County Department of Social Services, was elated to learn that NCWorks Career Center was bringing over the bags to help the local DSS assist the children who would benefit from the items. 

Diane Thomas, center manager for the NC Works Career Center for Nash and Edgecombe counties, said the hope is this will give the foster children a little more pride when they’re going from home to home to have their own luggage to take with them.

“As soon as we heard about the Luggage of Hope project, our team pulled together to provide suitable luggage and toiletries,” Thomas said. “We had collected over 12 luggage and overnight bags within the first few weeks. This program touched the hearts of our team. Some have had first-hand interaction with foster children in our area. We cannot think of a better way to serve our comunity than giving a child a smile.”

On board with the “Luggage of Hope” inititative was First Lady Kristen Cooper, wife of Gov. Roy Cooper, who reportedly has used her platform to improve the well-being of children in North Carolina by focusing on preventing and mitigating adverse childhood experiences. Cooper has served as a guardian ad litem for children in Wake County since 2003, while using her legal training to represent foster children in court.

Overall, “Luggage of Hope” surpassed the original goal of collecting 72 pieces of luggage with around 230 donated statewide, the majority of which were filled with toiletry items.

“I want to thank the dedicated professionals at the Division of Workforce Solutions and the entire NCWorks team for organizing this community service effort,” Cooper said. “By providing these suitcases and essential items, Luggage of Hope will offer some comfort and convenience to foster children facing challenging transitions.”