After countless loads of laundry, and hundreds of volunteer hours painting, remodeling and fundraising, the Voices for Children Foundation recently opened a special store designed just for Valley foster children in Nob Hill Boulevard’s Rainier Square.
“Identity” will provide donated new and gently-used clothing and accessories for the nearly 700 children in Yakima County’s foster care system.
Foundation secretary Lisa Wallace explained that money is often tight for foster parents. Volunteers hope that Identity will provide foster children a place where they can make choices about their own belongings, which helps them gain a sense of control over their lives and surroundings.
Although foster parents receive a stipend from the state for fostering, Wallace explained that the money is allocated for different expenses. Sometimes the clothing budget for children in foster care can be as low as $6-12 dollars per month, she said. Foundation board member Denise Hannon added that some children come into foster care malnourished, and can go through big growth spurts when they’re in more stable surroundings...creating another clothing challenge for foster parents.
Hannon visited similar foster-clothing stores in Spokane, like the Teen Closet, to get some ideas of how to best manage the intake and “retail” setup of the Identity store. The VFC nonprofit foundation has big dreams for Identity: they hope to partner with schools so teachers can make referrals, coordinate with local retailers to obtain low-cost unsold clothing, and maybe even open a small seasonal prom boutique.
Foster parents and other guardians will be able to make appointments up to twice a year to “shop” at the store, which will not be open to the public. A volunteer personal shopper will open the store and help the family make selections. There will be a limit that fluctuates based on the number of clothing items Identity has in stock, Hannon explained.
The group said that they are aiming to make the experience for older children as close to a retail experience as possible, which is one of the reasons they’re picky about the quality of donated clothing that they receive. “Some kids have never had the chance of selecting anything new in a store,” Wallace said. “They need the clothes as well as the experience.”
The foundation received donated assistance painting and sandblasting the interior of the storefront, and a Seattle designer helped the group choose colors for the interior. All kinds of materials and labor — from piping for clothing racks to floor sandblasting — have been donated, and dozens of people have been helping wash and sort hundreds of pounds of donated clothes.
Junior League of Yakima member Jennica Corry said that the League is helping coordinate the store opening since the club had so many new members who were interested in tackling a real challenge. “We realized this would be a huge project,” she said. “But we voted on what we wanted to take on ... this project was the one that received overwhelming response.”
Hannon noted that the response from volunteers and businesses has overwhelmed the small foundation, which only has a four-person board. “This Valley is so generous,” she said.
May will indeed be a busy month for the foundation, since their annual fundraiser will be held this Mother’s Day at Cascade Garden in Yakima. The Mother’s Day Spring Faire features hand-crafted items from local artisans, gourmet lunch offerings, espresso, wine tasting, flower baskets for sale and hourly silent auctions. There will be live music and entertainment throughout the day.
Hannon said that about 500-600 people attend the event, including many foster parents. “I think it’s great that they come out and support us,” she said. “It’s just a really nice community event.”
Admission to the event is by donation to Voices for Children Foundation, and proceeds from the hanging baskets and beverages will go to the charity as well.
The Mother’s Day Spring Faire will be held rain or shine from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Cascade Garden at 5704 W. Washington Ave. The event is open to the public, and all mothers who attend will receive a flower.
Through the month of June, you can drop off clothing donations for the Identity store at Gamache Orthodontics at 4114 W. Nob Hill Blvd., the Yakima Tennis Club at 2505 Fruitvale Blvd. and Gymnastics Plus at 2121 W. Lincoln Ave.
You can also make arrangements for dropoff at the Identity store by contacting Voices for Children at 509-225-0335. Identity will accept any new or gently-used clothing item (boys and girls) from newborn through adult sizes, including accessories like jewelry, gloves, belts, scarves and hats. They will also accept new packages of socks, underwear, bras, pajamas and personal hygiene items like toiletries. (Please note that they will not be accepting any toys.) Monetary donations can be made to the VFC foundation through their website.