MILLEDGEVILLE — With approximately 7,700 children within the foster care system in Georgia, the Milledgeville Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) office is once again collecting tote bags for area foster teens and children, many of whom are shuffling their belongings from home to home in garbage bags.
A collection drive is set to begin for the 12th annual Totes 2 Tots suitcase drive, sponsored by GCS and Northside Hospital. The drive is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. New or slightly used backpacks, diaper bags, suitcases, duffel bags and other age-appropriate bags are being collected at the local GCS office at 624 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, next to Oconee Regional Medical Center, along with 26 other GCS offices across the state, including Oconee, Macon and Athens.
“We are looking forward to a very successful event,” local GCS Clinic Supervisor Ceaser Johnson said. “By hosting the event to launch the Martin Luther King weekend, we believe that we honor Dr. King’s dream as we provide tangible reminders to more than 7,500 foster children in our state that someone cares about them.”
In 2010, the Milledgeville GCS office surpassed its goal of collecting 600 bags with the help of Georgia College volunteers and community donations — collecting nearly 1,500 bags, which was included in the statewide total of more than 4,200 bags.
“Even though we have collected such a large number of bags in the past, the need this year is very great,” Johnson said. “We as the committee of Totes 2 Tots reach out to each of you personally, and ask that you bring just one or two bags as a generous donation on Friday, Jan. 17.”
The volunteer event was first launched by GCS in 2003 and has collected and distributed more than 33,000 bags since.
Originally held on Martin Luther King Day as a way to honor King’s vision and give back to the community, the event is now held on the preceding Friday to kick off the weekend of service.
Donations of totes and bags can be dropped off at the Milledgeville GCS office starting Monday, Jan. 6.
The Baldwin County Department of Family and Children Services will pick up donated bags, toys and kid-friendly items after the drive to be distributed to foster children in need.
GCS is a Top 10 private cancer practice in the U.S. and a national leader in advanced cancer treatment and research. The practice’s 46 physicians provide care in 26 Northside Hospital Cancer Institute locations in Metro Atlanta, North and Central Georgia through approximately 160,000 annual patient visits.
“It may seem insignificant to the rest of us, but for a child whose life is upended, these generous gifts offer some sense of stability in the transition to another home,” Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton said via press release. “The Totes 2 Tots program is not just another drive for a material need; it is a program that seeks to provide our state’s foster children with a sense of dignity and respect during a difficult time in their lives.”
For more information about Totes 2 Tots, to donate bags before the event, or get involved, contact the local GCS office at 478-453-1806 ext. 19, visit www.gacancer.com, or like the Totes 2 Tots Facebook page. Financial donations can also be made online at www.give.northside.com/totes2tots.