When the call came to Jenn and Matt DeLeeuw in February about becoming foster parents for the first time, their decision was made without hesitation. That’s not to say it came without a lot of thought, the couple simply knew in their hearts it was the right choice for them.

What Jenn didn’t realize was the kind of impact becoming a foster parent would have on her life.

“I feel like it was my calling,” she said. “We want to open our home to more foster children.”

Having researched the foster care system in Michigan and Eaton County, she was shocked to learn there was such a need for foster care in her community.

“After I learned how many children there are in the foster system, up to 50 to 70 children a year in Eaton County alone, it made me realize there are so many kids that need a good home and I can provide that,” she said.

She also learned about some of the difficult circumstances foster children often endure, in many cases bouncing from home to home. It prompted her start an organization — Guardian Angels Suitcases for Kids — with the mission of providing foster children with some bare essentials in hopes of making the transition less painful.

“I learned that kids can go from place to place with just a trash bag full of things they grab at the last minute,” Jenn said. “It can feel like they are being thrown out with the trash.”

So DeLeeuw started the organization this past Monday, after contemplating how she could make a greater impact on foster children in the area. She is currently accepting donations of new or gently used suitcases, backpacks or shoulder bags as well as items in which to fill bags for boys and girls of all ages, birth to 18 — with small toys for children of all ages, coloring books, crayons, pens, pencils, journals, hair products, hygiene products, non-perishable snacks, stuffed animals, undergarments, toothbrushes, clothes, shoes, books, flashlights and batteries.

Her organization, which is in the process of obtaining 501(c)3 non-profit status, will work with Eaton County DHS to help provide packs to foster kids going through a transition.

Donations can be dropped off at Carl Reck Jewelers in downtown Charlotte. To help or for more information, call (517) 231-0735, email GuardianAngelsSuitcasesForKids@gmail.com or find Guardian Angels Suitcases for Kids on Facebook.Guardian Angels