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Operation Suitcase: Successful. Varsity hockey teams gift Stark County Social Services

The members of the Dickinson Hockey teams wrote motivational messages on luggage tags before donating suitcases to the Stark County Social Services on Saturday, Dec. 22. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 4
Members of the Dickinson boys and girls hockey teams organize personal care items and suitcases ahead of donating them to Stark County Social Services on Saturday, Dec. 22. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)2 / 4
Richard Haugen (far left) of Stark County Social Services poses with the members of the Dickinson boys and girls hockey teams and their donations of suitcases and goods on Saturday, Dec. 22. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)3 / 4
A luggage tag reads "replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll (see) positive results." (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)4 / 4

The holidays are the time to give back.

With Operation Suitcase, the Dickinson boys and girls hockey teams are taking time to do what they can for the community during the season of giving. Members of both teams raised money through their own individual efforts while also donating and collecting personal care items such as deodorant, diapers, shampoo, conditioner and more.

On Friday, Lisa Giese took the $700 raised, three boys and three girls to Walmart where they purchased a dozen suitcases and 16 duffle bags. On Saturday, they gifted the supplies and the suitcases to Richard Haugen, the Foster Care Unit Supervisor at Stark County Social Services

While many take for granted the ability to store their belongings in a suitcase, foster kids don't always have that luxury, as they often times carry what they have in a black trash bag.

"Trash bags aren't seen as possessions, suitcases and bags are," Haugen said. "It's just a little more dignity, a sense of worth. It's an unfortunate time in their life, however, we want to try to make the best of it as we can. Things like this, the hockey youth coming together and doing something for our foster youth in the county are awesome."

The teams had some help as Dickinson Dental donated toothbrushes and toothpaste, while the Dorcas society contributed $500 and MBI contributed a $150 gift card. The hockey teams gifted the $427 dollars left over after purchasing bags to SCSS in cash.

Some of the "hockey moms" in Dickinson wanted to instill that in their children and Lisa Giese, mother of senior forward Tanner Giese, used to work as the Foster Supervisor for Stark County Social services and knew they needed support.

"We've been brainstorming for the past year for the boys and girls to give back to the community," Giese said. "This is what we came up with. There's a need for foster children in Stark County. Often times they'll come into foster care with their personal items in trash bags, so I talked to Rick and there was a need for suitcases and duffle bags."

Haugen said the number of children in the Stark County system that are sent to relatives in other states ranges from one to five in a month. Each of which, are given a bag to hold their belongings.

The hockey teams made their bags extra special though.Before sending the suitcases off, hockey team members took the time to write motivational messages on the tags, such as, "Difficult times often lead to beautiful destinations."

Haugen said SCSS has received a handful of donations around the holiday season many of which are cash donations.

"Those help purchase items that we can't purchase for the youth out of regular foster care funding the state provides us. There are other donations, not to this extent though," Haugen said.

Giese said she hopes this is the first of many service projects for the hockey teams.

"We're hoping it to be an annual thing," she said. "Some type of project to teach the kids that's kind of our purpose is to help others."