Moms establish closet for foster children
Realizing the need and desiring to help others, Jennifer Gray, assisted by her friend Joy McKnight, has established Foster Care Clothing Closet. The Closet is a collection of donated items for children placed into foster care. “When children are placed into foster care, oftentimes, they come with nothing more than the clothes on their backs,” commented Jennifer. “The Closet is designed to offer 24/7 access to immediate needs for clothing, diapers, wipes, formula, etc., for these children, helping to decrease the stress of transition. The availability of items in The Closet is based solely on the donations received.”
The idea of The Closet originated with Jennifer, a new foster mom in Florence County, but it’s not a new concept.
There are several of these types of facilities in the upstate and other areas of the South Carolina, but none in Florence County. Jennifer and Joy posted this idea on Facebook asking for donations and volunteers three weeks ago and have been astonished by the results. Clothing and items are pouring in, even though they don’t have a non-profit status yet. “People are giving just because they want to help,” Jennifer said. “It’s been overwhelming, we are in awe. God has been providing and we are seeing God winks all over the place.”
One example is that Jennifer and Joy were planning to rent a storage space last Monday, but on Sunday they were given, rent free, an empty store at 1811 S. Irby Street, Suite 107. Their benefactor was John Jebaily. They began moving in their space last Monday. Several mothers and fathers have been volunteering by collecting donations and coordinating drop offs, washing, organizing, packaging clothing, sterilizing bottles, sanitizing equipment, etc.
The items in The Closet are available to foster children currently in foster care and for future placements. Jennifer said their plan, supplies permitting, is to provide for new placements for up to 30 days (consumables such as diapers and formula for up to 15 days). However any time a foster family demonstrates a need, they will attempt to help them, she said. They work closely with DSS Foster Care Licensing and have many checks and balance to make sure the items go to children in foster care. When items are given to a foster family, the family also receives a document titled “Expectations of Recipients.”
To make sure people are not continuously taking items, they keep a log of the items issued, and document the presence of DSS paperwork proving that the child is a foster child. No items will be issued until this verification process is completed. The Closet is not just clothing, Joy said. Any item that can be used to care for children from birth to 18 years old is accepted. In addition to clothing and shoes, they accept toys, hygiene items, formula and baby food, bottle drying racks, blankets, baby equipment, such as car seats, strollers, cribs, etc.
Duffle bags and suitcases are huge needs. When a placement occurs, there are times when a garbage bag is all that is available to pack a child’s items. “This sets the tone for the process and sends a message to the child about their worth. What a very sad way to start an already stressful journey,” noted Jennifer. She encourages anyone who is a 31 consultant or hostess to consider donating their hostess gift. Donations may be dropped off at the site on Irby Street. Pick up is available, but must be coordinated with Jennifer or a volunteer. They can meet at a neutral location or come to your home. Individuals have volunteered to help collect and deliver.
Also, there are liaisons in Clarendon and Williamsburg counties who collect donations and deliver them to Florence twice weekly. Dr. Michelle Huxford and Jennifer’s mom, Linda Henry also have been very involved with The Closet. Foster parents are encouraged to return items such as equipment once the child has outgrown the need for them. All equipment will be labeled “Property of FCCC” in order to, hopefully, decrease attempted resale of these items. However children may take items with them if they move to another place. “We would never want a child to part with any item that has been their source of comfort or that they identify as their favorite toy,” said Jennifer.
The Closet is not set up to accept monetary donations at this time, but anyone wanting to help this way should call to find out their most pressing need which they can then purchase for them.
- Consumables. Diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo. Again, any item that can be used to care for birth to 18 years old.
- Bags: Tote bags, backpacks, suitcases.
- Attire: Clothes, shoes, socks for boys and girls, winter and summer. Newborn on up. Adult sizes accepted to clothe teens.
- Miscellaneous: Labeling supplies, hangers, display shelves, laundry detergent, Lysol or other sanitizing spray.
Jennifer also asks for prayer. Pray over the children that will receive these items, and the foster parents that are making the conscious decision to provide unconditional love to these children. Pray blessings over everyone who donates, that God will bless them tenfold. For more information look for their Facebook page or you may call Jennifer at 843-372-0086.