Another Stellar Year for Realtors’ Suitcases for Kids Campaign in SW Michigan

When Angela Nutto received accolades from her colleagues as the Most Effective Chair for her work as Chair of the 2018 Public Relations Committee at the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors she was deeply gratified and humbled. Now, it’s becoming increasingly clear why she earned that honor with word that the organization’s 12th Annual Suitcases for Kids raised more than $6,000 for foster children across the region…more than $700 higher than last year’s final figure.

Nutto and her fellow committee members at the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors recently celebrated the end of their twelfth annual campaign which, along with the community support, collected new backpacks and numerous personal items and raised $6,060 in cash donations to help Foster Children in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties.

The fundraiser benefits local foster children under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the tri-county region. Many of the children have very little or no personal items that they can take with them when they are moved into foster care, so the new backpacks, new clothing and personal healthcare items make a huge impact during a sad and confusing time for them.

The community support for the fundraiser also contributed to its success. In addition to donating personal care items and cash donations, local businesses provided items for a silent auction. Give Back Nights were sponsored by Silver Harbor Brewery, Chili’s, Moe’s and Hoopla; all in St. Joseph, and Ruoff Home Mortgage in St. Joseph held a Sips for Suitcases event at Lemon Creek Winery in Berrien Springs.

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The Suitcases for Kids committee members included Jenny Johnson, Angela Nutto, Ben Stephen, Chelley Bussey, Cindy Stovern, Joe Daniel, Kelly Luna, Kim O’Donoghue, Linda Radtke, Meryl Green, Patti Badner, and Kathy Pallas. The committee members are Realtors or Affiliate Members of Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services directors for all three counties thanked the Realtors and other fundraiser participants at the celebration for their support and gave insight into what the program means to them personally and for the children under their supervision.

Stephanie De Groff, Van Buren County Department of Health and Human Services, Christine Dvorak, Cass County DHHS, and Michelle Kuiken, Berrien County DHHS, accepted the donations for Berrien, Cass and Van Buren foster children.

Suitcases for Kids was started in 1995 by 10 year-old, Aubyn Burnside after learning that the average child in foster care moves three to four times and traditionally carries his or her personal belongings from home to home in black garbage bags. This nonprofit international program has spread throughout the United States as well as into nine foreign countries.

Aubyn’s story has been featured in eight books including Keeping President Clinton’s Five-Point Promise to ChildrenExtraordinary GirlsBusiness of the Heart: How Everyday Americans Are Changing the World, and What Do You Stand For? (A Kid’s Guide to Character). Segments about Suitcases For Kids have appeared on public television shows.

The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate licensees who are members of the National Association of Realtors and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties.  The Association can be contacted at 269-983-6375 or through their website at www.swmar.com

In the check presentation photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market are (left to right):

  • Mark VanDusen (Cressy & Everett Real Estate, Edwardsburg), 2018 President-Elect of SWMAR
  • Stephanie De Groff, Van Buren County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Christine Dvorak, Cass County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Alan Jeffries, Association Executive, Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, Inc.
  • Michelle Kuiken, Berrien County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Angela Nutto, (Keller Williams Realty SWM, St. Joseph), 2018 Public Relations Chair
  • Patty Lauten (Coldwell Banker The R.E. Group, Edwardsburg) 2018 Treasurer of SWMAR’