By Norma Guzzardo, Safe Harbor volunteer
More than eight years ago, as I was just getting started as a crisis line volunteer at Safe Harbor, I decided to start a project with my eight-year-old granddaughter, Marie. We wanted to provide some personal and play items for the children as they entered the shelter, since often they were coming with only the clothes they were wearing. We began by stenciling colorful animals on plain pillow cases and then putting toys and books into each case. With the cost of pillow cases being prohibitive, we decided to make/sew the cases ourselves by getting bright and colorful donated fabrics. Marie learned to sew that summer. From that time on, we’ve continued making “Kids Cases” for every child who enters a Safe Harbor shelter with their mother.
As the need increases with 500-600 women and children coming through the three shelters each year, help in sewing and getting things for the bags came from the Upstate and American Sewing Guild groups in the area, as well as church groups and individuals. Church circles from the Aldersgate United Methodist Church have sewn cases and provided toys for several years, accounting for several hundreds of our completed sets of bags. Financial, fabric and toy/book donations from individuals, church groups, the Elks Lodge of Greenville, Kohls, Tony’s Fabrics, the Italian American Club of the Greenville area, and Safe Harbor have helped in providing what we’ve needed to create hundreds of kids cases over the years.
Each kids case is filled with age-appropriate toys and books, made up in sets for: babies, toddlers, 2-4 year olds, boys and girls ages 5-7 and boys and girls ages 8-12. Items in the cases include: baby bibs, bottles, rattles, balls, dolls, coloring books, crayons, markers, yoyos, cards, cars, trucks, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, schools supplies, hair items, stuffed animals, books and more.
My granddaughter, Marie, now 16, is still integrally involved in the sewing, shopping, filling cases and delivering them to the shelter, in addition to helping with other Safe Harbor fundraisers. Several of her friends are now also involved in the process as they become aware of the serious problems many families face.
Now, as a mother and her child/children check into a Safe Harbor shelter, each child receives a bag of their own to keep. We recently completed our 1300th kids case.
Individuals, groups or companies wishing to help with the project in any way should contact Norma Guzzardo at 864.286.8508.