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State Honoree

Matthew Ternus


started a local chapter of “Suitcases for Kids,” a suitcase donation program for foster children. After reading an article about “Suitcase” founder (and 1998 Prudential Spirit of Community National Honoree) Aubyn Burnside, Matthew wrote Aubyn to request information and a starter kit. “I really care about less fortunate children who don’t have all the comforts and privileges that I enjoy,” Matthew said. “I read about foster kids carrying what few things they had in garbage bags when they move from house to house. That just didn’t seem fair, and I wanted to help. I thought it would be great to let foster kids know that they are special.” Matthew contacted Vinton’s Human Services Department to explain the suitcase donation program. He then spent hours making phone calls, writing letters, designing flyers and speaking to churches, schools and community organizations about his suitcase collection drive. As donations of suitcases, backpacks and duffel bags started trickling in, Matthew had to clean and repair each item, find storage space, then coordinate deliveries to foster children living in Vinton and the surrounding area. “The number of donations grows every day,” Matthew said. “This is an on-going project, since there are a lot of foster kids out there.”