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Decatur Heritage Christian Academy art students painted luggage donated by Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro to be given to children in foster homes. Taylor Brown paints an encouraging message on her suitcase.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Decatur Heritage Christian Academy art students painted luggage donated by Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro to be given to children in foster homes. Taylor Brown paints an encouraging message on her suitcase.

Acts of 'Luv'
Foster children to get hand-painted luggage through program

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com · 340-2468

A suitcase might not mean much to most children.

But a foster child given a hand-painted suitcase instead of a shopping bag for her clothes could think, "Someone cares."

That is the idea behind "Luv Luggage," a new project of Carnegie Visual Arts Center of Decatur and several partners.

"Children come into foster care with very few possessions, and those are often carried in plastic bags or boxes," said Joel McWhorter, Carnegie board member and president of McWhorter Communications.

The heart of the project is to express care and concern for a child experiencing the anxiety of being separated from his or her family, organizers said.

Donors, volunteer painters and social workers are linking to provide each child in transition with one of the hand-decorated suitcases. Families and Children Experiencing Separation, an agency that works to meet needs of Morgan County children in foster care, is the liaison with the children, McWhorter said.

Diane Prichard of Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro generously donated 34 suitcases, he said. Unclaimed Baggage sells luggage, clothing and other items never claimed by travelers.

Kay Smallwood of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association put organizers in touch with Unclaimed Baggage and provided a van to transport them to Decatur, McWhorter said.

Student painters

Decatur Heritage Christian Academy art students have hand-painted the first batch of donated suitcases. Teacher Laura Tucker said the 34 high school and seventh-grade students painted 55 suitcases.

"We had a real positive response from them," Tucker said of her students. "They dove in better than some of the other things they've done because it was something for others, not for themselves."

Fifteen-year-old Mary Kate Barthel said she painted flowers on a suitcase because she enjoyed the outdoors as a child.

"I thought this was a very good idea. It's nice to give foster kids something to call their own," she said.

Taylor Warren, also 15, said he picked camouflage for one of his designs because he likes to hunt and wanted to share something he enjoys.

Foster children will be getting unique works of art created by caring people, McWhorter said. The painted suitcases are on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center before being distributed by FACES late this month.

"Many foster children will find a smile when they need it most," McWhorter said.

Anyone may get involved by donating hard-sided suitcases in good condition, making financial gifts or volunteering to clean or paint luggage. Donations will be accepted at the Carnegie on Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on the project, call McWhorter at 351-0580.

Want to see?

Painted “Luv Luggage” suitcases are on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center, 207 Church St. S.E. Call 341-0562.

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