Got luggage?

Many foster children and children in the custody of juvenile services don’t. They have to carry their belongings in trash bags.

Sometimes the bags rip and the kids’ belongings spill out onto the ground.

Ryan Dalley is a police/transportation officer for the state Office of Juvenile Affairs. He has personally seen the belongings of foster children falling out of torn trash bags.

“It’s embarrassing for them,” he said.

It’s not an infrequent problem. Half of the children in the foster care system spend two years waiting for a home and approximately 20 percent wait five years or more, he said.

During the waiting period, they have to frequently move from one temporary place to another.

Boy Scouts of America Troop 2 in McAlester would like to get a grip on the problem foster children face when moving. They’re asking McAlester area residents to donate luggage for their “Lessen the Load” drive on Saturday.

Suitcases and duffle bags can be dropped off from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church at Third Street and Washington Avenue.

Dalley, who is the scoutmaster for Troop 2, said he got the inspiration for the luggage drive from Trent Wood, a Boy Scout with Troop 26. Wood conducted a similar drive in Tulsa.

“I found out about it and felt pretty touched that somebody would do this,” Dalley said. “It’s an awesome idea.”

Dalley felt so impressed that he decided it would be an excellent service project for the scouts in Troop 2.

“I wanted the boys in my troop to help the kids in foster homes,” Dalley said.

He said there is no requirement that the suitcases or duffle bags be brand new. He hopes they will be in good condition and they should be usable.

“Bring what you want to bring,” Dalley said. All donations will be gratefully accepted.

He hopes the “Lessen the Load” drive continues to grow.

“I don’t feel like it should stop with our community,” he said. “Maybe someday, we can do it all over the state.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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