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Elkview woman's duffel bags help foster children

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When 86-year-old Mildred Lyons first heard of the Carry On campaign, she knew she had to be a part of it.

The campaign collects duffel bags and suitcases for West Virginia children who are taken out of their homes and put into foster care.

Mission WV, the state Department of Health and Human Resources, the Southern District of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network and the West Virginia Endangered Children Task Force sponsor the campaign.

"My son read [about] it in the paper and I knew I had all these materials," Lyons said. "I took it from there."

So Lyons started making and collecting duffel bags and luggage just after Christmas last year. She made 10 duffel bags in all and collected others, which she donated earlier this week.

Too often, foster-care children use garbage bags to carry their belongings, said Carrie Dawson, public relations director for Mission WV.

"It's not uncommon to see a child in foster care with a garbage bag," Dawson said.

Not all the children are removed from their homes in an emergency situation during the night, but many of the children don't have their own bags or luggage.

"We're trying to give them that comfort, and knowing that they have their own stuff is empowering for them," Dawson said.

Volunteers in the sewing room at the Elk River Community and Education Center helped make the bags.

Christine Newhouse of Elkview helped Lyons cut out the material for the bags, Lyons said.

"I've been a volunteer here since it opened," Newhouse said. "I just do whatever ... I do whatever needs to be done."

Lyons also enlisted the help of her church, where she collected one tote bag.

People who frequent the community center donated the rest.

"I'm awful happy to be involved in it," Lyons said. "We all are."

Projects like these are nothing new for the volunteers in the sewing room at the community center, though. They've made turbans for cancer patients, and since 1999, they have raised $22,000 by raffling off quilts they made. The funds help them support community center operations.

Along with luggage, the Carry On campaign also collects the following items for the children: toothbrushes, toothpaste, other toiletries, non-perishable snacks, stuffed animals, hair brushes or combs, books, journals, blankets, coloring books, disposable cameras and flashlights. 

For more information about Carry On, or to find a drop-off location, call 866-CALL-MWV.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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