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There have been so many repercussions from the pandemic including job loss, depression, homelessness and increased cases of domestic violence, which all add up to a significant uptick in the number of children being placed in foster care. 

CASA Kane County Executive Director Gloria Kelley says they typically serve around 600 children for abuse and neglect each year, but that spiked by 100 more kids after the pandemic hit.

The increase in need helped motivate Jim and Jessie Chakires to put out the call to neighbors to fill suitcases with blankets, stuffed animals, winter coats, toiletries, personal care items — seemingly simple things needed by many kids in foster care.

“Many of these kids move from foster home to foster home, many times in a year and often times everything they own is literally in a garbage bag so they are reminded of what little they have,” Jim Chakires said. “It’s a way for us to give these kids some dignity.”

This year, they raised $33,000 for “Luggage of Love” in suitcases, personal items and cash for Kane County kids in foster care.

“It’s something that you can do. You can tangibly go out and buy a suitcase and pack it and feel like you’re making a difference,” Jessie Chakires said.

Kelley said it’s special for the kids because the items are not a hand me down, but directly for them and even marked with their own luggage tag.

“Just the happy faces of expression that you couldn’t even imagine because they didn’t expect it,” Kelley said.

Even in difficult times, this community came together to let these kids know they are seen and cared about.

“The outpouring of support that came in the last couple weeks was the most humbling experience that I ever recall,” Jim Chakires said.