ALDEN, N.Y. — Ask any parent, and they'll tell you raising kids is expensive. They seem to grow out of clothing just as quickly as you buy it, and just because the sizes are smaller, it doesn't mean the price tag is.
At the Foster Love Closet, many items still have the tags on them, but they're all free for foster children.
Erin Richeal, Cheryl Flick, and Kara Brody teamed up to start the community closet as a way to help other foster parents just like them.
They open their doors twice a week to people who've opened their hearts and homes to kids in need.
The women started the Foster Love Closet because they know firsthand the cost connected to fostering and how quickly kids can be placed in a home.
"We never know until we see the child what they come with. I've had extreme cases where they are dropped off in a diaper or a t-shirt. They come directly from the hospital," said Richeal.
Fostering an infant can be especially expensive because parents need clothing, car seats, cribs, highchairs, and diapers — and they might not always have those things at the ready.
At first the women collected and stored items at their homes, but they wanted it to be more of a shopping experience. They set up shop in 2,000 square feet of donated space at Town Line Lutheran Church in Alden.
Foster parents and their kids can pick what they want. They are allowed a week's worth of clothing, along with pajamas, and extras like accessories, coats, and shoes. They can shop four times a year or when new children are placed in a home.
Foster parents just need to bring their placement papers and a photo ID in order to shop.
The FLC collects and gives away furniture or connects people who have those items with those who have a need.
All items are new or gently used. Socks and underwear are brand new. Everything in the FLC was donated by people in the community.
They have clothes for infants all the way up to plus size since foster care goes to age 18.
Local schools, businesses, and civic organizations have contributed to the FLC's inventory by holding toy and diaper drives.
Since the FLC opened in August 2018, they have helped more than 100 families.
The Foster Love Closet is located at 1159 Town Line in Alden (in the old preschool at Town Line Lutheran). They are open Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Families are encouraged to bring their foster children with them to shop.
They are currently accepting donations of spring/summer clothing (no winter clothes, please), bathing suits and swim trunks. They ask that clothes are washed and free of rips, holes, or stains, and less than five years old.
You can also contact the organization to see what items have yet to be fulfilled on their Amazon wish list.
For more information, visit the Foster Love Closet's Facebook page.