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Cases for a Cause donates suitcases to Nazareth Child & Family Connection

ROCKWELL — In late June, Rockwell resident Alex Hiatt and his wife, Katie, decided it was time to do something more for the children at Nazareth Child & Family Connection.

The Hiatts, members of Nazareth Community Church, had volunteered at the children’s home for the past 10 years, helping annually with a “Stay at Home” mission that involved remodeling, landscaping and painting at the organization’s campus.

But the most important part of their work, Alex Hiatt said, was building relationships with the children who live at the home.

Hiatt said he learned of a need: many of the children that come in and out of Nazareth’s care have no permanent means of transporting their belongings. For many of these transient youths, that means their belongings were packed and transported in trash bags.

So the Hiatts set a goal to provide permanent, collapsable luggage for all residents of the children’s home. Hiatt said they hope to see the effort completed by Christmas.

The six-month goal was completed in a little under two months. Monetary and in-kind donations provided enough for 70 cases to be filled with extra gifts and delivered to the home last Friday.

About 50 of these cases were given to current Nazareth residents last Saturday.

“I know people may think differently or have different opinions than I do on this,” said Hiatt. “But it was just God’s hand in all of this that we were able to see it completed in seven and a half weeks.”

Vernon Walters, president and CEO of Nazareth Child & Family Connection, credited the community for the success.

“The generosity of our community always amazes us,” Walters said. “It’s unbelievable how quickly the Hiatts were able to put this together and deliver the suitcases to our residents. And it will have a lasting impact on all of the residents.”

The cases were filled with special surprises for recipients: overnight bags as well as movie theater gift cards or vouchers for free pizza or haircuts.

Hiatt said he was inspired to include the gift cards after talking with Nazareth residents.

“For me, being able to spend so much time with them already, I knew what they liked to do,” he said, speaking of trips to a movie theater or pizza parlor. “How many times do we take things like that for granted?”

As kids explored their bags Saturday, he said many were beaming with excitement.

“It’s just simple stuff, but it seems like it went really, really far,” he said. “… My payoff in all of this was just seeing them happy.”

The 70 bags and included treats totaled $11,000 worth of merchandise. Hiatt said he approached each contributing business with an offer: donate what you can and let me purchase the rest.

Donations totaling $6,000 secured the 70 bags and gifts with some $2,000 to spare.

Hiatt said the plan is to keep the effort, now called Cases for a Cause, going year round for all temporary residents of the home — about 200 to 300 children and teenagers a year.

“No matter if they are leaving tomorrow or if they are here for a long time, they know these suitcases are theirs,” Hiatt said. “And regardless of what they face in life, they know there are people who care about them.”

Local businesses that donated to the project include Cici’s Pizza, East Coast Wings and Grill, Encore on Main, Cinemark Tinseltown USA, Great Clips, Harwood Signs of Granite Quarry, Joe Gibbs and Game Plan for Life of Huntersville, Nothing 2 Lose Motorcycle Shop, Tax Centers of America, The Forum of Salisbury and Thrivent Financial.

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