Mari DeVries and Taiah Minnick of Girl Scout Troop 481 both share a love of making an impact on their community through their involvement in Girl Scouts; and that love translates into their Silver Award Project.
The Silver Award is the highest award a Girl Scout at Mari and Taiah’s Cadette level can achieve. It involves identifying a problem or area of need in the community and coming up with a sustaining solution. Both Taiah and Mari will need to contribute a minimum of 50 hours each to this project.
Mari and Taiah brainstormed ideas with their mothers, Amy DeVries and Ronda Minnick, while selling cookies at their booth. The idea of a foster closet was proposed, and Mari and Taiah got to work researching. “Part of it [finding an area of need] is just listening to the community to find out where those areas of need are. As part of Women of Today, that’s been on their list for many years, so when they were brainstorming at the cookie booth, that was on their list, and what they liked the best,” Amy added.
They made a visit to Stevens County Social Services and soon learned that a foster closet could be just what this community needs. Stevens County does about 20 foster placements per year, and most children that are placed arrive at their new foster homes with only the clothes on their backs. “We learned that foster placements can happen at any time of day, and can be any age,” Taiah said.
A foster closet could make these transitions easier. “A foster closet is a place that foster parents can come and get necessities for their foster kids,” Mari explained. items that are commonly needed during a foster placement such as clothing, food, diapers, pillows, shoes, underwear, and car seats. The foster closet system makes these items accessible at a moment’s notice so that foster families can gather all of the items needed for children placed with them.
“We are also letting people who have fire or who have been in domestic situations, too, so it won’t just be for foster families,” says Taiah. The current nearest foster closet is in Grant County.
Mari and Taiah began the process of acquiring a location suitable for their project. They visited a number of local businesses in search of space to set up the closet. The Fire Side/Met Lounge opened their business to them and is allowing them to use the basement, formerly known as the Diamond Supper Club, in order to get them up and running. They will be located here for the time being, but they are still in search of a more easily accessible location. The closet will be housing about 250 totes filled with supplies.
There are several local businesses that are providing discounts and donations as well to help in the development of the foster closet, but more fundraising is still needed.
This is where community members come in! There will be ample opportunities during Crazy Days to help. There will be a dunk tank featuring Reid Rose, Mark Ekren, Steve Just, and even Mari and Taiah, as well as games out on the library lawn. Donations of shelving, storage containers, new car seats, mattresses, gently used clothing and undergarments, diapers, wipes, and toiletries are welcome. They are also in search of materials to build a wall to separate the foster closet from the storage space in the basement of the Fire Side/Met Lounge. Monetary donations are also welcome.
You can email the foster closet group at StevensCoFosterCloset@gmail.com with any questions or suggestions, including suggestions on location.
Once the closet is up and running the Morris Area Women of Today will have oversight, but Mari and Taiah will continue to be involved. They are hoping for the closet to be open by the end of summer.