By Jason KUROSU
One of the more common sights that Lovette Panthier encounters during her work at the Dept. of Children & Family Services is one that she deplores: children in and out of foster care in her office, carrying their things in duffel bags or garbage bags.
“This child has been in your home all this time and you couldn’t even have the decency to let them have one of your suitcases to walk out of the door,” said Panthier, describing one of the more frustrating elements of her work.
Since 2011, the Crescenta-Cañada Lions Club has partnered with the Dept. of Children & Family Services (DCFS) in the Kases for Kids program, collecting donations of backpacks and suitcases for children. The most recent collection took place in July in the Ralph’s parking lot on Foothill Boulevard, resulting in approximately 100 bags collected. The bags are packed with various donated items, from school supplies to toiletries, necessities a child may not have, especially when they are often abruptly moved from their homes.
Crescenta-Cañada Lions President Art Rinaman said he knew Kases for Kids was something the Lions Club would continue taking part in after its first bag drive in 2011, partnering with the Reseda-based Mid Valley Lions Club. It was then that he met Panthier when she drove out to collect the bags.
“What I like about it is it’s the one fundraiser where people don’t have to spend money,” said Rinaman.
Panthier attended the Lions Club’s Aug. 21 meeting, both to thank the Lions Club for generating the donations at its now annual drive and to describe what happens to foster kids and their parents, along with other aspects of her work at the DCFS.
Panthier presented the state of foster care to the Lions Club as one with an increasing number of kids needing homes and a shortage of homes willing to accept them.
When asked whether they needed more bags, Panthier was blunt about the growing demand for any donations.
“Oh, they’re gone,” she said without hesitation. The DCFS handed the bags out on Aug. 17. “I think [the collections] should be done more than once a year if possible.”
Rinaman said the Lions Club is pursuing the idea of a more regular drive, though the number of donations has decreased since the initial 2011 effort.
“We had probably 150 bags in 2011. This year it was around 100,” said Rinaman. “Hopefully, it will grow. My goal is to fill a semi-truck. We’ll see.”