Love & Luggage Collecting Supplies For Youths Aging Out Of Foster Care

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Each year, up to 25,000 youths age out of the American foster care system, leaving many to figure out their next steps on their own. Organizations around the country aim to rectify that problem, though, including one right here in Lucas County.

At Love and Luggage, a partner of Adopt America Network, young adults aging out of Lucas County Children Services are provided with luggage and much-needed household supplies when they leave the system.

“These young people will soon live independently in apartments, dorms and houses together,” said cofounder Sarah Otis. “These items are really important for their journey to that.”

The wish list items include sheets, towels, basic first aid supplies, personal hygiene items, hangers, pots and pans, silverware, mops, brooms, batteries, clocks, tools, laundry items and paper products.

Since Love and Luggage was started in 2021, the organization has received feedback from former foster care graduates and from Lucas County Children Services about what items are highly requested.

“We embrace them through a graduation party every year where they receive their luggage, which we purchase,” Otis said. “They get to choose their items for independent living, though, which are crowdsourced through the community, businesses, churches and individuals.”

In May of every year, the organization ramps up its collection efforts to make sure the supplies are fully stocked for each of the young adults to choose from.

This year, with 21 area students set to participate in the Love and Luggage graduation, the largest class yet, more supplies than ever are needed.

“Luckily, we have the YMCA of Greater Toledo, which is collaborating with us for collection of brand-new items,” Otis said.

Several YMCA of Greater Toledo locations will place boxes in their lobbies from Sunday, May 5 to Saturday, May 18 to collect new, small items.

At the Anthony Wayne YMCA, Fort Meigs YMCA and Eastern Community YMCA and Outdoor Pool locations, guests are encouraged to drop off laundry detergent and pods, dryer sheets, women’s body wash and liquid dish soap.

At the Frank and Shirley Dick Family and West Toledo YMCA locations, they are asking for women’s deodorant, women’s razors, hair care products for textured hair and body lotion.

The Wolf Creek YMCA and Sylvania YMCA/JCC locations are asking for disinfectant wipes, sponges, paper towels and baby wash and shampoo.

Additionally, other small items such as women’s hygiene products, portable chargers for phones, power strips and mini flashlights are also needed.

“The other collection is happening at First Presbyterian, and they can drop off between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day from May 5 through the 19th,” Otis added.

First Pres Maumee is located at 200 E. Broadway St. and is the location of Love and Luggage’s pantry, which the graduates can visit to pick up much-needed items during other Love and Luggage events throughout the year.

Other, larger items, like pots and pans, organizational tools, towels and other linens can be purchased through Love and Luggage’s Amazon wish list, which is found on the Love and Luggage Facebook page.

The brand-new items provide the young adults with a good starting-off point for their entry into adulthood, Otis said.

“This event is really the entry point for these young individuals to belong to a community that only they would understand having been in foster care,” Otis added.

Once the young adults receive their luggage and select their preferred supplies at the May 31 graduation, they are then welcomed to join Love and Luggage’s former graduates and supporters at future events, including dinners.

“At our dinner gatherings, it’s all about encouraging them and giving life-skills training and a chance to visit the pantry,” Otis said. “They also receive gift cards to help stretch their budgets.”

Suggested donations and where to drop the items off can be found online at www.ymcatoledo.org/loveandluggage/.

Monetary donations can also be provided to Love and Luggage through the Adopt America Network. Ques-tions regarding donations may be directed to Otis via email at ssotis@bex.net.

Love and Luggage’s mission and other information is also on the website loveandluggage.org.

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