COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Non-profit provides brand new clothes for foster children

Over 12,000 children are in foster care in North Carolina right now because of abuse, neglect or dependency.
Updated: Jul. 13, 2023 at 12:15 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It can be traumatic for a child. A social services worker takes them from their home and places them in foster care. For children who have only known one family, no matter the circumstances, it can be devastating.

Over 12,000 children are in foster care in North Carolina right now because of abuse, neglect or dependency. Many of those children come into foster care with only the clothes on their backs. That’s where the Foster Pantry, a non-profit organization in Wilmington, steps in.

“This is where we come to fill in requests when kids first come into care,” says Stacy Pullen, one of the co-founders of the organization.

Pullen is one of the first faces children brand new to foster care will see. Pullen says the organization was started with a mission to ease children who are taken from their homes and placed into foster care -- sometimes without any notice.

“You often hear about the trash bags,” she said. “Unfortunately some of these kids actually come with nothing. So they come with their clothes on their backs. They are picked up from daycare or school and they come in straight from the foster home.”

Pullen and several other foster moms had a brainstorm to start a clothing pantry for foster kids. After storing clothes in their garages, they were offered space in the Harrelson Center, a hub for 19 non-profit groups, but they needed to be registered as a nonprofit.

“We were like, ‘Well, we’re not really a charity. We’re just a bunch of foster parents collecting stuff,’” she said. “And they were like, ‘Well, can you become one,’ and we were like, ‘Uh, sure. How do you do that again?’ And six years later, here we are.”

They are prepared for the smallest children to the biggest kids.

“So if we were to get a request for an infant, we would come over here (pointing to an area with children’s clothes) and select two or three brand new outfits--two or three brand new pajamas.”

The Foster Pantry takes donations but the non-profit does not take used clothes. And some of the items they get kids love.

“I mean we have Nikes,” she said.

The teenagers, however, prefer gift cards.

“Just because we can pick out clothes all day long -- the reality is they are probably not going to wear what we pick out,” Pullen said.

Clothes aren’t the only items provided at the Foster Pantry.

“We have books and school supplies.”

On July 30, the Foster Pantry will host a back-to-school bash. It’s for kids in foster care, those who have been adopted and their families.

“We’re going to provide book bags and school supplies and have a lot of fun activities,” Pullen said. “We have lots of fun activities planned for them that day. We will be providing dinner as well. So they’ll just come out and have an evening of fun and get all the school supplies they need for the year.”

For more information on how to make a donation to the Foster Pantry, click here.