Fayette County

Lexington man's suitcase collection fills living room and a need

Don Pratt stands among the stacks of donated luggage he has received at his home in Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. As he has been doing for the past 15 years, Pratt will distribute the luggage to state agencies for use by foster and adoptive children who need ways to carry and store their clothing and belongings.  Pratt said he has received more than 350 bags in the past week after an article was published in the Herald-Leader asking for donations. Photo by David Stephenson
Don Pratt stands among the stacks of donated luggage he has received at his home in Lexington, Ky. on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. As he has been doing for the past 15 years, Pratt will distribute the luggage to state agencies for use by foster and adoptive children who need ways to carry and store their clothing and belongings. Pratt said he has received more than 350 bags in the past week after an article was published in the Herald-Leader asking for donations. Photo by David Stephenson Herald-Leader

Suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks and carry ons made of leather or cloth are stacked high in the living room of Don Pratt's house on Walton Avenue.

The suitcases are stuffed inside one another, up against the wall, in the middle of the room. Some stacks are so high they nearly touch the ceiling.

Pratt's biggest complaint: it makes it a little harder to see the TV.

"It's loaded," Pratt, the retired owner of Woodland Grocery, said Tuesday as he scanned what looked more like an airport baggage claim area than a living room. Regardless, the suitcases fulfill a need.

Pratt, 68, collects unwanted luggage, suitcases and backpacks for foster and adoptive children who need ways to carry and store their clothing and belongings. Pratt, who has been a foster parent for more than 28 years, has hosted more than 64 foster children. He has seen foster children throw their belongings into garbage bags, and he thought they needed something more personal.

Pratt started collecting suitcases more than 15 years ago, but his collection efforts have grown tremendously because others have heard about it.

Most recently, Pratt expanded his effort and asked the public for donations. Not long after the listing was posted, Pratt's front porch was loaded up with suitcases. Pratt said he has received more than 350 bags in the past week after an article was published in the Herald-Leader.

Now, when someone calls Pratt about luggage, he goes to pick it up himself. Bella Blooms, a flower shop in Brannon Crossing, has collected suitcases for Pratt for a number of years.

The luggage is given to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Cabinet officials said they assist Pratt with passing out the luggage to children.

But Pratt says the need for luggage has grown among children too. He says he has been contacted by agencies all around the state, particularly "more rural agencies where they don't have as many people who have luggage."

"I do it for free; I don't get a tax write off," Pratt said. "I collect and deliver and the only cost is gasoline and time, but that's free; it's my free time. I enjoy doing it. It's a great project that doesn't cost anybody anything and it should be done nationally."

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