G i r l S t a r t s
‘ S u i t c a s e s
F o r K i d s’

Record Staff Writer

Hickory Daily Record
March 21, 1996

   Last November, 12-year-old Aubyn Burnside, a sixth- grade homeschool student, had an idea for an ongoing community service project - collecting suitcases for foster children.
   Aubyn got the idea from her sister, Leslie Burnside. According to Aubyn, “She (Leslie) kept asking for suit- cases.”
   Leslie Burnside, Performance Outcomes coordinator for Catawba County Department of Social Services´ Families for Kids initiative, knew of the need for foster children to have something in which to carry their be-

In Back, L-R Participants Charles Meadows, Isaac Meadows, Aubyn Burnside, Chris Young and Welland Burnside Sits Among Suitcases Collected For Area Children In Foster Care
Sixth-Grader Starts Project
´From Page 1A
   According to Ms. Burnside, “When
we remove kids from a home, we use
what's handy...garbage bags. It
sends a message that we don't value
their things.&rldquo;
   Ms. Burnside said there is no fund-
ing to buy the children suitcases.
    DSS only removes children from a
home when they are in imminent
danger, Ms. Burnside said. Often,
social workers have no time to
search for a suitcase the family may
not own.
    Ms. Burnside spoke of one social
worker who removed three children
from a home and had to put their be-
longings in torn paper bags.
   “A lot of kids already in foster
care who move don't have anything
to put their stuff in either,” Ms.
Burnside said. “(When we give them
a suitcase) it's a little more respect-
ful for the kids.”
    After Aubyn heard Ms. Burnside
asking her family for suitcases on
several occasions, she decided to go
out and find her sister the suitcases
she wanted
    As president of Sunny 4-H Club,
vice president of Blue Skies 4-H
Club, secretary of Discovery 4-H
Club, and member of Junior Girl
Scout Troop 211, Aubyn had lots of
   She waited until after Christmas
to really get started on the
&ldquo   ;Suit-
cases for Kids” project. “I was
thinking maybe people would get
new luggage for Christmas and want
to get rid of their old suitcases,” she
    According to Aubyn, she was told
that Catawba County needed 200
suitcases. “We've collected 171 so
far (since January),” she said,
   As the project grew, so did the
number of people helping. Aubyn
founder and chairwoman for the
drive, recruited several of her fellow
4-H'ers to help.
   Chris Young 15, of Sardis 4-H, be-
came co-chairman for “Suitcases for
   “Hopefully we can get lots more,”
he said. “I've got lots of people call-
ing me.”
   Charles Meadows, 14, and Isaac
Meadows, 11, were also recruited.
Members of the Blue Skies 4-H club,
the brothers became the Caldwell
County co-chairmen.
   “It's a lot of hard work hauling
those suitcases,” Isaac said. “There's
a lot of hazards working with suit-
cases. We found a kitchen knife in
one. And, when we were hauling
them (in a truck), they would slide
and bang into us.”
   Charles said he and his brother be-
came involved after speaking to
Aubyn about it
“We thought it was a
good cause and wanted to help,” he
   Eight-year-old Welland Burnside,
Aubyn?s younger brother, was
named Junior chairman. According
to Welland, “I've been riding and
picking up the suitcases. I think it's
hard work and a good project to do
because it's good to help other
   So far, Catawba and Caldwell
county 4-H'ers are the only partici-
   But, the members of the “Suit-
cases for Kids” project do not plan
to stop at two counties: They plan to
take it statewide.
    From the beginning, Aubyn has
spoken at her church, Holy Trinity
Lutheran Church in Hickory, and to
other area churches about the need
for suitcases. She also put up posters
at libraries, grocery stores and com-
munity buildings.
   As a result, she has been nomi-
nated to the National Geographic
Kids' Hall of Fame. The award rec-
ognizes excellence in a sustained
cause that benefits others in the
community, state and world.
   Aubyn plans to start a statewide
network to collect suitcases for fos-
ter children in North Carolina by in-
volving 4-H'ers in other counties.
   According to Leslie Burnside, DSS
will immediately begin using the
suitcases the 4-H'ers have collected.
   “We try to get the kids to take
toys, stuffed animals, photos,
blankets... and that will be good for
them to know that they're safe in one
place,” she said.
    Ms. Burnside said the next group
of suitcases collected for foster chil-
dren will go to Caldwell and Burke
    “It's just been great,” she said.
“Kids helping kids. I've had very
little involvement. They made it
   The 4-H?'rs are still actively col-
lecting hard or soft suitcases. Any-
one interested in donating suitcases
or large duffels may call Aubyn in
Hickory at (704) 328-3645 or Chris in
Mountain View at 462-1028. In
Caldwell County, call the Meadows
at 396-3898.