Hope in a Suitcase Arrives at Wayfinder

Lifting the spirits of children entering foster care

They arrive at Wayfinder with little more than the clothes on their back. Some carry trash bags containing a few meager belongings. They are neglected, abused or abandoned children. In Wayfinder’s Cottage, they find solace, loving care and Hope in a Suitcase.

The Hope in a Suitcase team on a “packing day.”

Wayfinder is one of four organizations in Los Angeles County that provides safe, temporary shelter for abused children while they await placement with a foster family. Known as The Cottage, our shelter is the only one of the four that accepts infants and toddlers.

At The Cottage, children receive expert, loving care so they can begin to heal. They also receive hot meals, new clothes and “comfort kits” that include stuffed animals, pajamas, books and blankets. The nonprofit Hope in a Suitcase partners with Wayfinder to provide clothing and belongings that children can call their own. When children leave, they receive a new duffel bag filled with everything they need to start the next chapter in their lives.

Did you know? Every child who visits Wayfinder’s Cottage is given a “comfort kit,” filled with new items, including a stuffed animal, pajamas, sweatshirt, hygiene kit, book, and blanket.

Hope in a Suitcase was born “around a kitchen table and with a little naivety,” says Marsha Todd Austen, one of the co-founders, with a smile. She and several friends were deeply moved by reports of children entering the foster care system carrying their belongings in trash bags.
When Marsha first visited The Cottage at Wayfinder, she was struck by the cozy surroundings. “Everyone has a grim view of what a shelter looks like,” says Marsha. “But Wayfinder’s Cottage breaks the mold. The people set the tone, and the space matches that warmth.”

Hope in a Suitcase Founder Marsha Todd Austin with a young volunteer.

By providing children with clothes, essentials and comfort items, Hope in a Suitcase makes the transition into foster care a little bit easier. “Our goal is to free Wayfinder’s expert staff from scrambling to provide clothing essentials so that they can focus on comforting and settling newly arrived children,” says Marsha. “Hope in a Suitcase wants every child to meet their new foster family with dignity, without the lasting memory of arriving with a trash bag.”

Did you know? In 2017, 28,019 children were removed from their homes in California.

Hope in a Suitcase lifts children’s spirit in the most unimaginable moments they can face. At The Cottage, a little girl twirls around in her new dress. A boy’s face lights up when he sees the cartoon character on his duffle bag. For a few moments, everything is better.

For these moments and so much more, thank you to Marsha and Hope in a Suitcase.•

May 2, 2018