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Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Organization still helping rescued children

Meet the Baird family: K.C. Kilpatrick Baird and Kyle Baird are with their children Hallie-Stella and Jayden.

For K.C. Kilpatrick Baird, what began as a nightmare turned into a dream – and is now a 10-year reality.

"Old, nasty clothes. Some diapers that were nasty, too." That's what 2 1/2-yearold Hallie-Stella and 18-month-old Jayden wore when the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services brought the children to Baird's door in 2013.

"I was shocked at exactly what it looks like when kids are rescued," Baird said. "I had no idea what a hot mess and horrible situation it really is until I saw it for myself. Then I knew what criminal abuse and criminal neglect – and how children are rescued – what it really looks like."

Less than a week later, Baird, who accepted Hallie-Stella and Jayden as part of a foster-to-adopt program, was on a one-woman mission to ensure every rescued child had basic living needs.

Geaux 4 Kids was born – an organization that advocates for children in crisis who are in an emergency foster care situation. A decade later, the organization will celebrate its 10th anniversary with "May The Force Be with You," a May 4 lunch fundraiser at East Ridge Country Club. May is also National Foster Care Month.

"I have overwhelming gratitude for all the community support," Baird said, thinking about her decade-long journey. "I'm trying not to cry. It was very hard that first night, to see children from criminal abuse and criminal neglect, and knowing those children represented about 4,000 children being rescued every year with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and who are coming from horrific, traumatic, dramatic situations."

Geaux 4 Kids' signature program is Project Geaux Bags. Baird said during the last 10 years, 15,000 bags have been distributed to children. There are pink bags for girls ages infant to 12 years old, blue bags for boys ages infant to 12 years old, and black bags for teenagers ages 12-18. Each bag has pajamas, underwear, a backpack, a pillow, a blanket, toiletries, comfort items, water, snacks and a note of encouragement from another child.

The bags are now distributed in all 64 Louisiana parishes. "It's everything they would need that first night. … They have their own toothpaste, their own toothbrush, hairbrush, feminine hygiene products. … It gives everyone a chance to regroup and make a plan. They know they can get out of whatever dirty, nasty clothes they are in and start anew the next day."

Geaux 4 Kids has come a long way since Baird begged and pleaded for money while collecting items and delivering bags out of the back of her car.

"I had to piecemeal everything. That was more of a whack-a-mole situation. I had to work fulltime to pay my bills. I was a full-time volunteer at my own organization. I had to move it to different places all the time, because people could only accommodate maybe 100 of our bags to pack. I had to make sure to ask them for so many shampoos, and so many conditioners, and so many hairbrushes."

All the while, she was describing her dream to anyone who would listen.

"I took every opportunity that God put in front of me to tell people my story. To tell people about my children. To tell people about children that are in crisis. Even whenever I (as a social media manager) would be waiting in the press pool for Governor (John Bel) Edwards to come in and talk about flooding, and we would be talking, I would slip that in there and let him know. He said, 'You need to do something about that.' He gave me his contact people. … Every opportunity I had, I seized it. I just prayed and showed up and talked and talked and talked. When people invited me, I attended their events and talked."

But in the fall of 2019, the future of Geaux 4 Kids changed – for the better. When asked who was most responsible for that change, Baird didn't hesitate.

"(Caddo Parish) Sheriff Steve Prator. He helped me with the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement's Special Victims Grant. Until then, I had to always work full-time, managing (Geaux 4 Kids) as a labor of love hobby versus lining it up as a statewide, fully-funded agency."

Overnight – a night that lasted six years – Baird received $100,000.

"I fell to my knees and just started crying." Sheriff Prator remembers his first meeting with Baird. "K.C. is a unique individual. I could tell right away she was doing it not for the glory, not for the money, but she was doing it for the kids, having been through what she had been through. It just touched me in a way that I wanted to help, too, and I knew we could do better than working out of the back of her van."

Having $100,000 to spend – it was a reimbursement grant – meant Baird could run Geaux 4 Kids like a legitimate program.

"Instead of having to piecemeal things, I was able to make a plan, be able to buy in bulk and be able to put (Geaux Bags) onto U-Hauls and distribute them in bulk. That first grant, I was able to do 1,000 bags, which cost $150 a bag."

"It makes all the difference in the world," Sheriff Prator said of the Geaux Bags project. "We – as first responders in law enforcement – see people at their worst. We see them when they are in the valleys. Kids, they didn't have anything to do with the environment they are in, but they suffer from it. Anything we can do to alleviate any pain and suffering and make their lives just a tiny bit better for right now, until they can get out of what they're in, is good."

Just because Baird received a $100,000 grant doesn't mean Geaux 4 Kids doesn't still need money – especially from local people and businesses.

"They've cut us down," Baird said of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. "They have less money now because of Covid. They get their funds from seized crimes. There is a funding shortage from seizing those assets, because they didn't have anyone to go out and seize those funds. Everyone is receiving a lot less, but we are still in that mix. That's how we are able to operate on credit, buy in bulk, and distribute those bags – with community support."

But money isn't the only thing Geaux 4 Kids needs.

"I've learned to pray for resources, not just money. Resources can do things money can't do. We are in (Bossier and Webster Parish District Attorney) Schuyler Marvin's Family Justice Center. We don't pay for office space because he has already granted us that office space. Same way with Sheriff Prator. We don't pay for a warehouse because we use the resources at hand. There are many ways people can help us."

As for the two children who showed up at Baird's house wearing nothing but dirty diapers?

Hallie-Stella is now 12 years old "and super sassy." Jayden is 11 years old, "and he's getting sassy. They are fine, pre-teen kids who are active in their school, in their church and in our family. They love helping other kids who they were once like. They really have a heart for anybody who is in crisis and struggling. They remember that at the core of their being."

To learn more about Geaux 4 Kids and buy tickets for the May The Force Be With You 10th anniversary fundraiser, visit www.geauxbags.org.

13,000+ Geaux Bags made since 2013

$ 100 Approximate cost per bag

$1,300,000 In Impact for Our Community So Far



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