BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More than 800 children in Harrison County and more than 200 children in Hancock County are in foster care. Many of them leave abruptly, so they don't have any belongings to call their own. On Friday, the Biloxi School District launched a program to bring comfort to children who end up in DHS custody.
Biloxi School Nurse Jalena Taylor deals with all sorts of physical aches and pains. One day, she met a child who was hurting emotionally.
"We had a student here in the Biloxi School District who was being removed from one of our school buildings into DHS custody. This child came to us in the nurses office with a bag full of goodies that her teacher had packed from her classroom, and that was all that child had," said Taylor.
The idea for the "Pack-A-Bag Program" was born. The district wants to give each child who ends up in the foster care system a bag filled with personal hygiene products, school supplies, new toys and clothing.
"They don't have anything but what is on their back, nothing," said program organizer Lee Ann Dubaz.
"So it's to help those children to have items to take with them. If they're very young, a teddy bear to sleep with in a strange bed. If they're older, a journal."
The campaign just started, and already support for it is growing. The Biloxi Yacht Club Ladies Auxiliary has already collected items for the drive. If you donate a gift card or money to the cause, the Biloxi Bay Chamber and the IP Casino will have a drawing. They will give away a two-night hotel stay and dinner for two to a lucky winner.
On Friday, the Dogwood Garden Club donated $300 to buy backpacks. Those bags will be stuffed with donations to help ease the fears of children who've suffered abuse, neglect or were given up by their parents because they have special needs.
"If they've been abused by somebody that they know and they're being picked up by a stranger, they are really lost at what's going on. So to know that school nurse or that counselor is giving them something that will be theirs to keep and saying, 'It's going to be OK. We are going to take care of you,'" said Dubaz.
"They're taken from their homes or from schools with no time left to pack. It will mean a sense of belonging for that child. It will also give that child a sense of security and comfort knowing someone has thought enough of them to build a relationship," said DHS Community Resource Specialist Reba Davis.
The goal is to have ten ready-to-go bags at each school in Biloxi.
"It's amazing just to see the outpouring of support. It's very heart warming," said Taylor.
This is a year-round project, so you can donate at any time. For more information about the "Pack-A-Bag Program", call the Biloxi School District at (228) 374-1810.