Forrest General Hospital donates luggage to Mississippi Children’s Home Services
Hattiesburg, Miss. (August 17, 2016)– Forrest General Hospital’s Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) donated over 100 items to the South Mississippi Children’s Center’s luggage drive on Monday, August 15. The bags and pieces of luggage were collected from employees in those departments in an effort to provide children with a parting gift upon leaving the shelter.
“In Pediatrics and NICU, we often take care of children who are beginning their lives and seeing the world for the first time. In some ways, children who enter shelters are starting their lives over. Forrest General has many employees with giving hearts, and we wanted to see these children go off on their journeys with bags and luggage of their own to put their clothes and belongings in once they leave the shelters,” said Leigh Ann Leonard, RN, Patient Care Manager of Pediatrics and NICU.
The South Mississippi Children’s Center (SMCC), a part of Mississippi Children’s Home Services, is a refuge for abused, neglected, runaway and homeless youth. The Hattiesburg location provides beds for 12 children and youth who are seeking temporary shelter. Children who are referred by the Department of Human Services may stay in the shelter on a temporary basis until permanent placement is found. During their stay, professionals assess the child’s situation and determine next steps. While they live in the shelter, children attend school and receive medical, dental and vision care as well as therapeutic treatment.
According to Annie Jackson, MA, SMCC program director, children often arrive at the shelter carrying their clothing and belongings in trash bags, which sparked the idea for a luggage drive.
Jackson said, “We wanted to ensure that every child would leave the shelter with at least one piece of luggage so they would leave with dignity. We believe providing our children with luggage gives them dignity and hope.”
Because of the luggage drives, Jackson says children are often able to leave the shelter with more than one piece of luggage. However, SMCC works with organizations across the state, and they share excessive luggage with any of the 5,000 children in foster care in Mississippi rather than storing it all at the shelter.
“I believe if we can impact the way children feel about themselves, it will go a long way for them in changing their mindsets. Sometimes it’s a little thing that makes a difference and can give a child hope for the future. Now that the kids know we have luggage, they start to ask for it when they get ready to leave so we know we’re already impacting their lives,” Jackson said.
To learn more about SMCC or to donate, visit mchscares.org.
CAPTION: Pictured: Left to right: Sarah Townsend, RN; Bethany Lee, RN; Tatum Johnson, RN; Sonja Felts, house manager at South Mississippi Children’s Center; Debbie Doane, RN; Leigh Ann Leonard, RN, patient care manager; Christy Newman, RN; Annie Jackson, program director of SMCC; and Trish Keys, unit secretary