Scottsdale resident Adriane Grimaldi got a surprise when she and her husband first became foster parents in 2004: The child they took into their home showed up with a black trash bag filled with his belongings.
It turns out kids removed from their homes by Arizona Child Protective Services sometimes have to leave so quickly, there's no time to find a suitcase, Grimaldi said.
"It just felt so wrong," said Grimaldi, a former Tribune reporter. "It just felt like, what message are we sending to these kids who have already been through this traumatic experience, to put their belongings in a black trash bag?"
So in February, Grimaldi set out to collect 300 duffel bags and drawstring sacks for the agency to distribute to kids who are forced to pack their things in a hurry.
By Wednesday, she had 388. Now the goal is to collect as many as possible.
"Wouldn't it be great if CPS was just so inundated with these pillowcases that they didn't need trash bags?" she said.
Most of the bags are sewn by volunteers, either pillowcases with drawstrings and pockets attached or duffel bags made from colorful bits of cloth.
Grimaldi found patterns for both types of bags existed online from similar projects in Tucson and other cities. She sends volunteers to those Web sites to get their own bags started.
CPS removes about 3,700 kids from their homes in an average six-month period, said department spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez.
Black trash bags aren't the rule - CPS works with families to find a duffel bag, backpack or even a pillowcase that kids can use to tote their belongings, she said.
However, in extreme circumstances they do use trash bags, she said.
Grimaldi has had sewing groups and churches take this on as a project. Teachers in Scottsdale have vowed to sew bags over the summer. A few Mesa teachers said they want to make bags with Service Learning classes, and a Mesa teenager has asked her how to start his own drive for an Eagle Scout project.
"The underlying theme is, 'I just want to help,' " Grimaldi said. "And this is something small I can do to make a difference."