Grace Case Youth

Colby Hall, left, and Brent Stolzer made a presentation on the Grace Case Youth program during last week’s Community Services Forum meeting. (Photo by TOBY CARRIG/Herald staff)

The Ste. Genevieve Community Services Forum voted to donate $500 to Grace Case Youth, a program that gives foster kids a suitcase filled with basic needs and some special items.

Grace Case Youth is a non-profit started recently by Ste. Genevieve County residents Colby Hall and Brent Stolzer.

“We collect gently-used items as well as gently-used suitcases, and we fill them with necessities and things that will help foster children get through their time in the system,” Hall said last week during a presentation to the forum.

“We just want to try to reach out to our youth and help them be more comfortable and give them positive outlooks,” Hall said. “We would like to start with the suitcases as an introduction to invite them in.”

Hall said he has a long-term goal of establishing an all-inclusive community center that would have resources for children to create positive situations.

“We just want to be an outreach center for them,” Hall said.

He talked about his own story as a child in the foster care system.

“I was in the foster care system from the age of 3 until I had myself emancipated at 17,” Hall said.

He said he had struggled with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse — “lots of trauma from birth up until about 24, and then I finally got sober and clean off the drugs, which that started when I was about 10.”

“It was about 10 years’ long — basically my entire life I was broken from my time in the system and all of that,” Hall said. ...

He talked about the significance of a suitcase.

“I was always going in and out of different homes, throughout my childhood,” Hall said, “and I always ended up with a trash bag over my shoulder. ... I started saving suitcases five years ago. I’ve been saving them for years with something in the back of my head that something was going to come to me and I was going to know what I wanted to do with these suitcases.”

He said signs about donated items for the suitcases would be placed in some local businesses.

Donations of backpacks and duffel bags also will be accepted.

See complete story in the October 16 edition of the Herald.