By Avra Sullivan
In 2004 Dawn Schultz, owner of Babies in Bloom Consignment in Centreville, was looking for a way to give back to the community. She also needed to find homes for excess inventory that had not sold. The answer to both needs came to light when she picked up her newly adopted son, who she had fostered previously. “When we went to bring him home, all of his belongings were in black trash bags.” Dawn was horrified. She immediately saw an opportunity to help foster children maintain their dignity and sense of security as they move between homes. She started Cases for Kids.
Cases for Kids fills suitcases, duffle bags and back packs with clothing and other necessities and distributes them to children in need. Dawn and her staff reached out to the community for suitcase donations and partnered with local child advocate agencies…and then started packing! “We try to pack five or six outfits, depending on the season, a toy or book, and a stuffed animal. It gives the children just a little something to hold onto that belongs to them alone.”
Through the years, Cases for Kids has grown beyond helping foster children to helping children, adults and families who are in need for a variety of reasons. Be it from tragedy such as a fire or accident or for those struggling in the economic downturn, Cases for Kids has distributed hundreds of bags, and Dawn says each year more cases are given out. They also have expanded their area beyond Queen Anne’s County to parts of Caroline and Talbot. The organization averaged ten cases per year in the beginning, and last year distributed 68 bags. So far this year, they already have surpassed that number.
Cases for Kids works with agencies such as CASA, Social Services and Head Start who inform them when there is a need. “We usually get the child’s age, size and gender, and that’s it,” says Dawn. They use clothing and items from Babies in Bloom and also include toiletries such as soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes and deodorant. The agency then picks up and delivers the suitcases to the child or family.
Cases for Kids has received great support from both individuals and organizations in the community. The Girl Scouts have made donations, and Chesapeake Moms group helps raise money for the program. Dawn says the reports she receives from the agencies that deliver the bags is wonderful. “They tell me how the children’s faces light up when they receive and open their suitcases.” She adds the benefit is reciprocated. “We feel so fortunate to be able to give back to the community in this way.”
While Dawn says they have the majority of clothing items covered through the store, they still can use donations of suitcases, especially backpacks. Monetary donations and toiletries also are welcome. Monetary donations can be mailed directly to Cases for Kids, c/o Centreville National Bank, 109 North Commerce Street, Centreville, MD 21617. Suitcase donations can be dropped off at the store located at 623 Railroad Avenue in Centreville. More information about Babies in Bloom and Cases for Kids can be found at www.Bloomingconsignment.com or by calling 410-758-8702.