by SARAH NACHIN
Hernando Sun Reporter
On Tuesday, August 6, Fostering Hope Florida's Kidz Closet held a ribbon cutting at their store in Spring Hill. Chamber of Commerce members, staff, volunteers, foster parents and foster children, along with members of the community attended the event. Michael Congeni represented the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and presented the staff with a chamber membership plaque.
Fostering Hope Florida is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which was started by Gloria West-Lawson in 2006. Part of its mission is to help foster families and to keep siblings together.
"Our mission is to partner with the community in creating a compassionate system of foster care that honors and protects the rights of children," stated Ms. West-Lawson, founder and president of the Board of Directors.
The Kidz Closet is a resource for foster, adoptive and other substitute caregivers. Even a family that has financial needs can come and obtain items. It is stocked with clothing, toys, cribs, high chairs, car seats and other items. Everything is free. Becky Burton manages the store in Spring Hill.
Marion Thomson, a board member of Fostering Hope, stated, "Every kid that comes into foster care, comes in with a garbage bag full of their things, but they don't have any clothes, so they come to one of our clothes closets. We have one in Pasco County and one here in Hernando County. We just opened this one in July."
Each child that comes to the clothes closet gets a duffel bag full of age-appropriate items, such as clothes, toys, books, a blanket, socks, toothbrush, shampoo, shoes. They will keep that duffel bag with them because they may move four or five times before they get a permanent placement. They have something that becomes their own.
Ms. West-Lawson continued, "With the clothing closet we are trying to preserve the dignity of these children. We want our children to be able to compete at all levels, for example to have the shoes that other kids are wearing, have the nice school supplies that other kids have and to make sure they have clothing that is equal to their peers."
Store manager, Becky Burton commented, "Donations of new and gently used clothing, toys, shoes, books and baby items are accepted. There is also a great need for clothing for teenagers. Cash donations are always welcome, as well."
Ms. Burton mentioned several ways in which the community can help Fostering Hope Florida. These include becoming a foster parent, volunteering at the Kidz Closet and organizing fundraisers.
Fostering Hope Florida's Kidz Closet is located at 5310 Spring Hill Drive near Commercial Way. To find out more about the Kidz Closet call 352-610-4767 or email [email protected]
For more information on the organization, visit www.fosteringhopeflorida.org or call 727-688-5328. You can also keep up with news and events on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FosteringHope.