Tiny little shoes line a portion of the floor. Tiny little shirts are stacked neatly on one shelf, flanked by another shelf piled with tiny little blue jeans.
Boxes of diapers line another shelf. They stand next to large plastic storage bins of tiny little socks and underwear.
This is the Foster Children Clothes Closet at First United Methodist Church in Sallisaw. The clothes closet is a mission of Sallisaw United Methodist Women (UMW) who saw a need in the community. UMW members who help with the project are, from the left, Pat Heflebower, Janie Hensley, Anne Bottorff and Marilyn Elliott.
In September over 160 children from Sequoyah County were placed in foster care. Their foster care parents are sometimes not prepared for their arrival and have little resources to fall back upon.
UMW member Anne Bottorff explained.
“Foster parents sometimes have to wait until the next pay cycle” to purchase needed items for the children, who often arrive with nothing. Then, Bottorff continued, “The children grow out of things so fast. And people don’t get rich on foster care.”
That prompted the UMW to open the clothes closet to provide for immediate needs.
Foster parents, who sometimes are the childrens’ own grandparents, can pick up clothing for boys and girls from birth to age 5. The closet can provide shirts and tops, dresses, pants, coats, pajamas, underwear, socks, shoes, baby blankets, diapers and shampoos.
Most are donations, either from members of the congregation at First United Methodist, or from the public. The UMW members buy and supply the disposables, such as the diapers, and money donations are appreciated because today’s disposable diapers are expensive.
Pat Heflebower said she was delighted and surprised one day, when, standing in a checkout lane with boxes of diapers, the man behind her asked if she was on her way to a baby shower. When Pat explained the diapers were headed to the Foster Children Clothes Closet, the man made a donation. Marilyn Elliott and Janie Hensley said they like to go to yard and garage sales where childrens’ clothes are on sale. They said often, when the seller finds out what their childrens’ outgrown clothes can do to help, they often donate the clothes to the clothes closet.
Hensley even makes the children duffle bags for their new wardrobes. Bottorff said, “They often arrive with nothing of their own, or all their things are stuffed into garbage bags.” The duffle bags give them a sense of ownership, a positive in a frightening world.
Sometimes the clothes closet gets too many clothes donations. Bottorff said when that happens, they share with Catholic Charities in Sallisaw.
But right now the clothes closet is in need of baby blankets, size 2 to 3 clothes, sleepers and pajamas, and “We can always use shoes,” Heflebower said.
Bottorff said the clothes closet is one of several missions the UMW support. “We like to do something to give back to the community,” she explained.
The Foster Children Clothes Closet is in the First United Methodist Church at 2100 McGee Ave. in Sallisaw. For information call 918-775-2538 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The closet is open to foster parents only from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the third Saturday of the month.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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