Woman gives new meaning to suitcase drive

Medina County woman, Amber Marrs, now resides in the Castroville area with her husband and four beautiful children. But she didn’t always have a home to call her own….for many years, she bounced from home to home in foster care. This story is about one small act of kindness that she will never forget…..when someone handed her the old red, rusty suitcase after she was dropped off in front of the CPS building at the age of 10, holding a trash bag full of her things. Now she is donating this piece of her heart, in hopes that it will bring the same comfort to another foster child, and sharing her story with us in hopes of motivating others to donate to the local luggage drive going on in Devine throughout 2020.
Marrs, who went into foster care at the age of 5, shared this moving sentiment about what an old rusty suitcase meant to her, as she packed her things to move from home to home:

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The dusty rusty suitcase
By Amber Marrs
When people look at me, they see a dusty, rusty suitcase. When my person looks at me she sees hope for the future. I bring her comfort and stability. You see I was given to my owner 19 years ago as a way to pack her stuff for her first move. I have been there for every move since. The move when they told her “Pack your stuff we leave in 5 minutes”–to this is the last move when they told her “You are going home.”
She was scared and alone. I have always been there for her. I have carried her most prized belongings I have held her scariest memories, I hold her dreams for the future. I have carried her through the tears of fear and pain as well as the joyous moments. She has concealed her memories in my pocket. I have held onto her Bible her deceased foster dad gave her, and I have held her hand as she packed up and ran away. I have supported her as she stepped through the doors of each move. I have always been there for her through the years, and even though I now sit empty and alone, I still hold her hopes and dreams for the future as well as her memories of the past. I no longer am needed to move her from home to home; rather I encourage her to remain strong as she helps other scared little kids move to their final home.
I may be a dusty rusty suitcase to most but to one special little girl I hold the world.
In an interview this past week, Marrs explained, “To most donating an old beat-up suitcase, they were going trash anyways seems like a minor deed….However, this old dusty rusty suitcase sits as proof that donating a suitcase to a kid in foster care is monumental and can be life-changing. I want to say a huge thanks to my friend Cindi Billebault for stepping up and collecting so many suitcases for kids in foster care,” Marrs said.
“I went into care originally at the age of 5 after several years in a kinship placement, they could no longer manage my trauma behaviors so they decided to drop me off in front of the CPS office in Abilene TX with what little I put in a trash bag. I was 10,” Marrs said.
“I remember feeling embarrassed I didn’t want someone thinking I was just carrying trash around, so I hid for awhile until the teddy bear lady asked me if I needed help. She is the one who took me to the Bluebonnet room and let me choose new clothes. It was here that I was allowed to choose a piece of luggage to carry my new clothes in. I chose the red suit case because it was huge and red is my favorite color.”
“I felt a little bit braver with my new suitcase, a little less transparent like some could see what I was so desperately hiding. I felt special because I had a shiny red suitcase. I carried that suitcase through many homes, the first move was the quickest. I got off the bus and was met by the caseworker and told to get some clothes together….. I was going to go stay with a new family…I had 5 minutes to pack. My favorite home was that of a preacher and his family. I loved them and truly felt at home with them, however the dad passed away suddenly of cancer, and yet again I had to move. I have lived all over Texas.”
We would like to thank Marrs for sharing her story, and how important a small thing like a suitcase can be to a child in foster care.
When asked what other items are most comforting to foster children, Marrs states, “Birthdays are big, the usual back to school supplies, stuffed animals and blankets are as good as well. However the biggest one that is overlooked is time, my saving grace was a family stepping up and becoming a mentor to me. These kids really need someone to say ‘I love you…I’ll always be here for you.'”
Marrs highlights The Thru Project, which is a San Antonio based program that matches volunteer mentors with children who are turning 18 and exiting foster care–going out on their own–without a mom or dad to guide them along their way.

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A community project…
Luggage being collected for local foster kids
We are excited to let you know that you can help a foster child, just like Amber, in such a simple and meaningful way by donating luggage/suitcases for local foster children right here in Devine. This will be an on-going project year-round to provide luggage, backpacks, etc. to HANK INC’s local foster children (in Medina, Uvalde, and Real Counties).
“Foster kids often have to transport their belongings from place to place in a trash bag,” said Cindi Billebault, one of the volunteers helping with the collection.
It is a simple problem that you have never thought about. We have spoken to many former foster children who stated they had to move dozens of times, and talked about how frustrating it was to never have a place or bag to securely store the few belongings that they did have.
For questions or to schedule a drop-off for these items, please call Cindi Billebault @ 210-215-5760. This community project is supported by Medina Valley Church Of The Nazarene. You may also drop off at the Devine News office.