Thanks to Canoga Park’s H. Savinar Luggage, foster children travel with dignity – Daily News


What kind of message does it send when too often children in the foster care system are given a trash bag to put their possessions in when it’s time to move because there are no luggage or duffle bags available?

The wrong kind of message.

“It’s so sad because not only are they being traumatized moving from their families, but they’re seeing all the stuff they value stuffed into a trash bag,” says Erica Chait, a social worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Mark Stern, who owns the Valley store of Savinar Luggage in Woodland Hills. With him is Erica Chait, a social worker with the Department of Child and Family Services. She runs the program Bags for Hope. (Courtesy photo)

“We wanted them to have something permanent, something not equated to trash,” she said, “a sense of dignity.”

She found that sense of dignity in the oldest, family-owned luggage store in Los Angeles – H. Savinar Luggage, dating back to 1916 in downtown Los Angeles, with a Valley location opened in Canoga Park in 1986.

A banner outside proudly proclaims its been around for over 100 years – “We Must Be Doing Something Right.”

The Valley store is owned by Mark Stern, who has been in the luggage business going on 50 years. Like all mom-and-pop stores, he’s been fighting the trend to online shopping and the Amazon monster baying at his door.

It can bay all it wants because he has something Amazon can’t sell – a hand shake, a smile, and a sense of dignity to make sure those foster care kids never have to fill up a trash bag with their possessions again.

He and Erica started a program called “Bags of Hope” – offering gently used suitcases donated by his customers to foster care children. So far, they’ve given out more than 600 suitcases, but things slowed down last year when he closed for six months due to the pandemic. Now, he’s open for business again.

“People come in thanking me for making them clean out their closets,” Mark laughs. “They have suitcases they spent a lot for, but don’t use anymore because they don’t have four wheels or they’re too heavy, or whatever. I give them a little something, luggage tags or a small travel kit, for donating.”

Mark Stern, who owns the Valley store of Savinar Luggage in Woodland Hills. With him is Erica Chait, a social worker with the Department of Child and Family Services. She runs the program Bags for Hope. (Courtesy photo)

No sales pitch, but if they need new suitcases now that travel is beginning to pick up, he gives an extra discount for people who donate. He’s survived the pandemic, Mark says, he’ll survive Amazon.



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