BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) (WKBW) — Mixed in with shops inside the Eastern Hills Mall is an important place for some very important people. For more than four years the WNY Foster Closet has been a critical resource for families and kids alike.
"Our hope is to help as many families as we can and get kids what they need," says Cheryl Flick, the founder of the WNY Foster Closet. "This is a clothing closet where every single item has been donated. It goes out completely free of charge to kids who have been removed from their house through the court system, and been placed in another's care, or in a kinship, or living with a family member or friend of the family."
Inside the WNY Foster Closet you'll find thousands of items to help ease the transition from clothing, to shoes, to toys and furniture. All of the items are free. Flick started the organization understanding the need first-hand.
"My husband and I fostered for almost nine years. We knew what the need was for extra clothing when children come to you. Normally when a child comes to you they have been removed from their home quickly so they don't have time to grab much," says Flick. "As a foster parent it is your responsibility to go out and clothe the kids, which can turn into a big expense if you are taking in several children."
Along the way, the WNY Foster Closet has helped hundreds of families and kids, including 5-year-old Allie, 7-year old A.J., and their mother Tara Meiler.
Meiler is not only a foster parent, but she's also a volunteer for the organization.
"We have six biological children, and then decided after that that we wanted to get into foster care. We have been fostering for seven years now," says Meiler. "Being a foster parent there is just not a lot of notice. Sometimes a few hours notice. It's nice to have somewhere to go".
The WNY Foster Closet is an amazing place with so much to look through, but the new "Birthday Room" demands attention. The former dressing room is now filled with toys and gift cards to celebrate a child's special day.
"When a foster family comes in they fill out a postcard and we will mail it to the child. They will get it in the mail and it will say, 'come in and shop and bring this postcard.' They get to unlock the door and pick any toy they want."
The WNY Foster Closet has five volunteers that run the space and is fully supported by donations of new and gently used items from the community.
"We take clothing, footwear, backpacks, school supplies, car seats, bouncers, pack and plays, high chairs," says Flick. "If a kid needs it, that's pretty much our general rule of thumb".
If you are interested in donating to the WNY Foster Closet you can click here.