SUMMERVILLE — When a local foster parent started storing supplies for children in her garage, she never imagined it would become the resource it is today.
Closet of Hope began with a small community of foster parents and has turned into a budding nonprofit catering to foster families in need of resources.
Through the program, foster parents have immediate access to items including beds, diapers, clothing and toys. These are especially important since these families often welcome new children, some as young as infants, at a moment's notice.
"That takes just a little bit of pressure off of those foster parents," said Kelly Green, Closet of Hope's founder.
Foster parent Caitlin Kilbride took in a newborn in early April. She went straight to Closet of Hope for baby clothes.
Foster parents get a stipend, but Kilbride said it's often only enough to cover basics.
“Foster care is already emotionally draining," she said. “They don’t need to drain their pockets as well.”
During the pandemic, some children in state custody have stayed with foster families longer than expected due to court delays. For the Closet of Hope team, it's meant missing out on opportunities to raise money for an emerging and needed organization.
Moving forward, Green and her colleagues said they hope they're able to grow the organization into an even larger resource with classes and events. They understand the need for the nonprofit.
“We are always the one to say 'Hey, I got you,'" Green said.
Charleston-area resident Alyssa Blitch and her husband decided to become foster parents because of the impact they could have on the lives of young people.
"We wanted to be the people we had in our lives as kids," Blitch said.
She was connected with Green and the Closet of Hope and eventually joined the organization as a staff member.
"It was easy to be involved," she said.
One of her fondest memories with the nonprofit was when she helped a family during a Christmas toy drive. She'd met a woman who had taken in a group of five siblings under kinship care.
This is when an extended family member, such as a grandmother or an aunt, takes in children.
During the toy giveaway, Blitch said the woman started crying. Christmastime during the pandemic was incredibly overwhelming for a lot of people, she said.
“We knew in that moment that we helped change that family’s Christmas," she said.
When foster parents face situations like getting a small baby overnight, something as simple as a car seat can be a game-changer, Blitch said.
That's where Closet of Hope comes in. The nonprofit offers 24/7 access to its resources. At the moment, it consists of four fully stocked storage units.
"And now we're looking for a building," Green said.
The program has helped more than 300 children in the Lowcountry and has connected with families as far away as Jasper County on the Georgia border.
This isn't surprising, considering how frequently children can cycle in and out of a foster home. According to Green, a child should ideally be in a foster home for around a year. Beyond that, something more permanent should be figured out.
“We fostered over 100 children in our house just in the first year," Green said.
Her family started fostering in 2018. She and her husband worked in community sports and became inspired to work and support children even more.
To keep the nonprofit going last year, she funded it with her own money. Now, she's looking into more grants and fundraising opportunities to help the nonprofit grow.
Community members can go to the organization's website at closetofhopesc.com for opportunities about donating, volunteering or requesting assistance.