Danielle Dickson and Patricia Squires, Branch Managers of Foster Closet of Michigan – Genesee County Branch, have had a lot of experience with foster children. “We both grew up with foster parents and were both foster moms,” Dickson says.” That is why the work they do now at Foster Closet is so important to them. A branch of the statewide organization, Foster Closet of Michigan, it is an all-volunteer, tax-exempt nonprofit organization providing aid to the Foster Care Community.
“By providing foster children with gently used or new and up-to-date clothing and supplies, we can help raise their self-esteem, so they can feel good about themselves,” Dickson shares. The belief of the organization is that kids in foster care should live as normal a life as possible – experiencing love, respect, and a kinder side of life while in their foster home.
The Genesee County facility is located on Mill Street in Clio, on property donated to them by Clio Schools, and services all foster care residents in the county.
According to Dickson, foster children who qualify for their help can be living in a licensed foster home, a relative’s home or a group home. First-time foster clients receive packages of new underwear, socks, pajamas, a new toy and a new outfit. “And, they get to shop for unlimited items in our second-hand shopping area for free,” she explains. Foster Closet offers items including clothing, toys, kids’ furniture, cribs and car seats, to name a few. “We have anything a child could need,” Dickson reports.
Clients come to Foster Closet by appointment only, within three days of when the child was placed in foster care. In emergency situations, Foster Closet will meet with clients right away. And on appointment days, there are anywhere from six to 15 families shopping in the store, Dickson reports. Many people give their time to help out at Foster Closet. “We have a great group of regular volunteers who keep us up and running!” Dickson exclaims. “There is not one paid employee in the entire organization.”
Foster Closet is funded entirely by donations from businesses, churches and private individuals. Items in the second-hand store are brought in by community members. “The best thing about Foster Closet is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the children,” Dickson shares.
In November 2016, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce chose Foster Closet to receive the Nonprofit Impact Award. The award is proudly on display at the shop. “It’s for all of us,” Dickson says. “Foster kids are the most deserving children. Their whole life is shattered. We’re a small organization, but we make a big impact.”
For more info, find Foster Closet on Facebook facebook.com/pg/FosterClosetOfMichiganGeneseeCountyBranch
Photography by Eric Dutro