Donations needed for non-profit that gives clothes, toys & household items to kids in need

Posted at 1:36 PM, Nov 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-28 06:38:34-05

(WXYZ) — A passion project started by Michigan foster mom Michele Austin has grown into a vital community resource for hundreds of local kids each month.

Oakland County Foster Closet allows kids in Michigan's foster care system to shop for new or gently used everyday items free of charge.

But with the need growing and funding dwindling, Michele is now putting out a call for help.

“They come in and just...the eyes," founder Michele Austin told 7 Action News.

She's describing what she sees every time she brings a child into the Oakland County Foster Closet’s toy room. It’s a place where kids get to shop and explore without the worry of money.

Inside the tiny space located off Farmington Road, kids have access to backpacks, luggage, car seats, books, kitchen essentials for older teens, and more.

They even have a "Birthday party in a bag," so that parents can make sure kids feel special without worrying about the price tag.

But according to Michele, it's the most essential items like bras, underwear, and socks, that go the quickest. And this year, Michele says she's seen the number of people in need skyrocket.

“We helped 30 kids in January," she said. "Then February came and I think it was somewhere around 80. And then it just kept going up. And we are now consistently helping 300 kids a month.”

It’s a good thing Michele says because she knows she’s reaching more people, and more families are becoming aware of her non-profit which started out of her basement in 2013.

As of this fall, the state reports that more than 10,000 kids or teens are currently in the foster care system. The foster closet is designed not just for them, but also kids who are adopted, low-income, or deemed at-risk by CPS.

Michele and her team of volunteers rely almost solely on donations.

“It looks like we have a ton, but by next week, this will be gone," volunteer Heidi Wilson said wild sorting through a recent donation pile.

Right now, Michele says they're desperate for more volunteers and donations. They're in the process of applying for grants, but right now don't have the funding they need.

“If we don’t get the funding then I can’t afford it,” Michele says.

Right now they are still focused on getting enough toys for young girls and clothing.

“4T, 5T, 6T, girls, boys, we’re lacking," Wilson said.

People interested in supporting Oakland County Foster Closet can visit their website, or stop in in-person at their Farmington Road location in Farmington Hills.

The group will also host an event at House of Falafel this Wednesday, November 30 from 3 to 8 p.m.. 20% of restaurant sales during that time will go to the Oakland County Foster Closet.