Girl Scouts replace foster kids' trash bags with suitcases - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Girl Scouts replace foster kids' trash bags with suitcases

Girl Scout Troop 2632 stands proudly with the 50 suitcases and duffel bags they collected for children entering foster care. (Source: KPLC) Girl Scout Troop 2632 stands proudly with the 50 suitcases and duffel bags they collected for children entering foster care. (Source: KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

When a child is removed from a home by a social worker, they are oftentimes only given a couple of minutes to grab personal belongings and stuff them into a trash bag.  A Lake Charles Girl Scout troop found out about this problem and decided to make a difference.

Troop 2632, make up of 6th graders at Episcopal Day School in Lake Charles, put the proceeds of their cookie sales and donations to work with a project they named "Operation Make a Smile."

It is hard for these young girls to put themselves in the shoes of children who enter foster care, moving from one home to another with nothing more than a trash bag of possessions.

"It would be really sad because we wouldn't have a family and we wouldn't know who we were going to live with," said Kaitlin Miller.

Kara Ortego and Dawn Sahualla work at the Lake Charles region Department of Children and Family Services office where as many as 20 children can enter foster care in any given month.

"Children are removed on an emergency basis when they're not safe," said Sahualla, Area Director for Child Welfare.  "Since it's an emergency, children don't have time to pack their belongings, sometimes they don't have all the personal care items they need."

Armed with proceeds from cookie sales, donations, and a grant from the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, these Girl Scouts went shopping for suitcases and duffel bags, stuffed with age and gender-specific items.

Emma Nixon says they have diaper bags for babies and toddlers who come into care, Disney Frozen suitcases for young girls, and a range of rolling suitcases and duffel bags for teens who enter foster care.

"This is a bag for a young girl," said Nixon, "we have little hair clips, their little scrunchies and their rubber bands.  Because they're going into a new home, they don't know if they get up in the middle of the night, they don't know where it is, so there's a flashlight for that."

It took three months and 50 hours of stuffing, sorting, and packing these bags to get to this result today: 50 bags ready to go to the next children who come into foster care.

"I hope she feels at home and just that she's going to feel good," said Nixon.

These Girl Scouts named their endeavor "Operation Make a Smile," and that is exactly what they hope these bags will do.

"Because we know we're going to help someone and put a smile on their face," said Miller.

All of the donated bags are at the Lake Charles DCFS office on Kirkman Street to be given out as the needs arise.

Copyright KPLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

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