For some, clothing is a fun form of self-expression, but for many others, clothing is an expensive basic necessity. For young people especially, clothing can also serve as a source of comfort and confidence.
Hope’s Closet of Butler County is there to help foster children for whom clothing is a scarce resource. They began providing support eight years ago to families impacted by children’s services. One of their main offerings is a clothing boutique in West Chester that is available to foster care children.
The 50,000-square-foot facility is full of clothing, shoes, baby items, toys, books, school supplies, sporting goods and more to help kids experience positive childhoods. They offer 14 outfits, pajamas, undergarments, coats, socks and shoes to children twice a year during spring/summer and fall/winter seasonal changes. Children in foster care can also come for a back-to-school shopping appointment and select a week's worth of tops and bottoms, a new backpack with school supplies, a pair of gym shoes, a jacket and two hoodies. The boutique is also available for children newly placed in foster care and as needed when kids outgrow their clothes.
Just because these clothes are provided as a service doesn’t mean that fashion isn’t a consideration.
“We take fashion very seriously at Hope's Closet!” Executive Director, Mark Phair, enthuses. “It is very important to make sure that foster children look their best so they also feel their best.”
Their goal is to help foster children have confidence as they start school and join new social circles.
“We want them to be confident in their appearance and help limit any kind of social challenges that may arise from their clothing and shoes,” Mark explains.
They do this by actively seeking donations that reflect current styles and trends that are popular. To achieve this, they receive regular donations from businesses like VANS, LulaRoe, Bombas and others.
“We also seek input from teenage volunteers to determine if our inventory is on point from a style perspective,” Mark continues.
Hope’s Closet works with dozens of county-based and private network foster care agencies around the region to provide access to resources and programming.
Shopping appointments in the boutique are reserved for children with active foster care cases. Many of their other programs are open to anyone who may be part of a foster care support network, such as relatives, friends of foster parents or those who may be considering becoming a foster parent.
Additionally, they actively recruit foster parents and provide a wide array of services and opportunities for existing foster parents. Some of these include specialized training, support groups, social/networking opportunities and recreational activities for foster families around Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
“These are all to help provide support and encouragement for those who open their hearts and homes to displaced young people,” Mark tells us.
Mark decided at a young age that he wanted to help people, so it comes as no surprise that his favorite part of his job is bringing happiness to kids.
“You cannot put a price on the smiles, laughter and excitement that comes from both the young people and foster parents we serve,” Mark explains.
Mark recalls a special memory of helping a teen who came in for his first shopping visit shortly after being placed into foster care. “We learned that he wanted a particular style of shoes that his biological mother had promised to get him. Unfortunately, she was unable to get them and the next thing you know, her struggles and challenges led to him being in foster care. Within a few minutes of being here, he had found the exact style, color and size of VANS that he had wanted!”
Hope’s Closet accepts a variety of clothing and monetary donations. They offer volunteer opportunities on site, such as sorting donations and hosting foster families for shopping appointments. There are also off-site opportunities available, including organizing clothing collection drives, hosting fundraising activities, guest speaking at community organizations and more.
Anyone interested in getting involved can reach out to Info@HopesClosetOhio.org or visit HopesClosetOhio.org.