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Selfless Teen Gives Hope to Kids in Need

Friday’s Hero: Brianna Swinderman

April 11, 2014

Albuquerque- Today Mayor Richard J. Berry honored a local teenager who was so moved by her experiences with children she met who were in the foster care system that she developed a charitable project to provide luggage to kids and families fleeing extremely traumatic domestic situations.  Brianna Swinderman started the project “Bags of Hope” to restore dignity in the lives of homeless youth, foster children, and victims of domestic violence.  Though the Mayor’s Friday’s Hero award generally goes to local police or fire personnel, in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mayor Berry is honoring people or individuals whose selfless acts make an extraordinary difference in the lives of abused or neglected children.

As the daughter of a social worker, through the years Brianna became aware of the many women and children served through her mom’s office who were in such desperate circumstances that they were forced to flee their abusers at a moment’s notice.  Often they had nothing to pack their belongings in but a trash bag. Deeply moved by this experience, Brianna decided that she wanted to take action to provide a small but significant gesture to help women and children in these harrowing circumstances to recognize their self-worth. At the age of 15, Brianna started the Bags of Hope project aimed at collecting new or gently used luggage and duffle bags. With a goal set at 1,000 bags, Brianna sought the help of her local community to spread the word. Within a couple of months Brianna met her initial goal and pledged to continue the project knowing that unfortunately there would be many more kids and families in the same situations.

After two years of work, the Bags of Hope project has spread throughout the state of New Mexico and has even inspired a group in Oklahoma to start their own bag drive. To date, Bags of Hope has donated over 3,000 bags to women and children in New Mexico and Oklahoma. The National Foster Parent Association recently asked Brianna to share her project concept in order to develop a national effort to aid children during tough transitions.

Through Brianna’s dedication to helping kids in the community, her simple gesture of kindness has given hope to many children and families escaping unhealthy and dangerous home environments.  Her extraordinary kindness has touched the lives of thousands of kids in our community and she is a tremendous example of hope for those who feel vulnerable and alone.  Brianna’s tireless efforts provide comfort to those in a distressing situation, and allow homeless youth, foster children, and victims of domestic violence to know that they are never alone in their struggle.

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For more information, go to http://bagsofhope505.wix.com/bagsofhopeusa

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