Closet Cooperative: Providing clothing, so parents can focus on connecting

Photo: Megan and her husband, Justin.

The inspiration to start a clothing closet came to Megan Finesilver after her first foster placement, two siblings, came to live with her and her husband, Justin. They both knew their time was better spent connecting with the kids, instead of running errands.

Megan opened Closet Cooperative to provide other foster parents with clothing for children and teens in their care. What started as a way to help other foster families has now evolved to help children who have reunited with their parents, refugees and anyone else in the community in need. We asked Megan why this kind of service is important and how simple actions can make a big impact.

What inspired Closet Cooperative?

As foster parents, my husband and I understand the urgency of needing to prepare for a child with very little time. To get ready for our first placement, we decorated a somewhat generic bedroom for a child and gathered toys and clothes of various sizes. However, when a sibling group arrived we realized how little we were prepared! Some parents have nine months to gather clothes and piece together a child’s room little by little. Foster parents do not. Thankfully, our community generously provided us with an abundance of bibs, clothes, diapers and even cribs to get us started. We were able to concentrate on taking care of those children, instead of midnight runs to Wal-Mart. We're so fortunate to have that community and feel that everyone deserves the same.  

The goal of the Closet Cooperative is to alleviate the pressure of buying clothes for children so that caregivers can concentrate on providing the things that children need most - love and support. Caring for children may present challenges, but keeping them clothed should not be one of them. Although the idea of the Closet Cooperative was initially to help children in foster care, we've opened our doors (or more accurately, our basement) to refugees, children that have been reunited with biological parents, as well as anyone who is struggling to afford clothing. I want to provide judgment-free, clean clothes to make a dent in the daily stress of parenting.  

Why is this kind of community support important?

There is no other reason besides luck that I have a wonderful family and have been provided with all of the basic necessities throughout my life. However, not everyone has been as lucky. I believe in the principle that "The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members." As foster parents and throughout my life, I've been the recipient of help, donations and support. Without that community help, I'm not sure where I would be. Everyone deserves this support and shouldn't feel ashamed to seek it. That's how a strong community works. Through the Closet Cooperative, I've gained insight and empathy and gotten to know big-hearted people all over Colorado. You will never get to hear their stories on the news, but there sure are a lot of truly awesome people making an impact every day.

I've come home to a porch full of diaper boxes, cribs and beautiful clothes in every size just from one online request. People want to help but don't always know how. My community has surprised me by even buying new things when donations haven't come through. They ask for nothing in return and are so happy to help. Small requests snowball into a community coming together for a purpose and I'm so proud to be a snowflake in the mix. 

How do you find balance as a mom and now running the Closet?

The more involved I've become in the foster world, the more I feel like everyone is doing so much more than I ever could. I've met the most amazing foster moms and dads who are juggling soccer practices and therapy appointments and visits for six kids, and I am in complete awe. They are real-life superheroes!

My husband and I constantly feel that we should be doing more, because so much more needs to be done for children in care. However, my full-time job is teaching and I love my job. Realistically, we can't provide a home to many foster children. It wouldn't be fair to not be able to dedicate to them the attention they require. Our way of contributing is advocating and providing gently used items to those that are busy being superhero moms and dads. I feel like anytime you are passionate about something, you find the time for it.  For me, that applies to parenting, teaching and to helping the community. 

What do you want people to know about the children and families served by Closet Cooperative?

The families that receive items by the Closet Cooperative are the actual givers. They have given me their stories, insight about the system and therapy by talking over the hardships. I'm honored to have met so many selfless people who are giving their love to our most vulnerable population. Families of all types have reached out to the Closet Cooperative and the common goal they share is to provide the best for their children. I'm happy to be the middleman in that process! 

How can others help you?

In the future, I will need help with storage somewhere other than my basement, because I’m running out of room! I've reached out to churches but no one seems to have space. I have so many coats and snowsuits, so I’d like to host a free coat drive in the fall.

Connecting with foster parents is also important. I would love to hold a foster parent clothing swap or just an event where foster parents can get what they need on a certain day. Maybe we could piggyback off a training session or park event. I also want to raise awareness for foster parents that there are closets like mine all over Colorado so please don't spend the whole stipend on a brand new coat or outfit! 

Megan and her husband are certified foster parents with Courage Community. If you’re interested in connecting with Megan about Closet Cooperative, contact her on Facebook or email closetcooperative@gmail.com.

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