COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) and Northside Hospital are collecting backpacks and suitcases for foster children in Georgia as part of their 14th annual "Totes 2 Tots" suitcase drive.
More than 11,600 children, from infants to teenagers, are currently in the foster care system in Georgia. Many of these children shuffle their belongings in garbage bags when they are removed from their homes.
Since "Totes 2 Tots" was launched in 2003, the annual volunteer event has collected and distributed more than 41,000 bags.
"Totes 2 Tots" was originally held on Martin Luther King Day as a way to honor Dr. King's vision of philanthropy and give back to the community.
The event is now held on the preceding Thursday, Friday and Saturday, to kick-off a weekend of service in Dr. King's honor.
Donations of new or nearly new backpacks and suitcases will be accepted on Saturday, Jan. 16 at New Apostolic Church at 5831 Billings Road in Columbus. The drop-off time is from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Additional drop-off locations will include all 27 Georgia Cancer Specialists clinics in Georgia.
"As the physicians and staff of Georgia Cancer Specialists, we look forward to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King's memory for the fourteenth consecutive year," said Dr. Cheryl Jones, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer, GCS. "Through this project, we have demonstrated our commitment to support the foster children of Georgia in achieving successful futures in the community."
GCS partners with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to distribute the bags in the counties in which they're collected. Bobby Cagle, director of DFCS, praised those who support the program, which helps to bring a measure of comfort and respect to Georgia's foster children.
"There are some children in our state who, unfortunately, have few constants in their lives," said Cagle. "The 'Totes 2 Tots' program, by providing a piece of luggage to those children whose lives have been upended, offers a sense of stability in a time of uncertainty."
Financial donations may be made securely online at give.northside.com/totes2tots. All donations are tax deductible.