Security Health Plan: Enriches lives for local foster children

Contact: Rebecca Normington, 715-221-9726, [email protected]

MARSHFIELD – There are nearly 8,000 Wisconsin children in foster care. In some cases, these children carry their few possessions in a plastic garbage bag. But one local organization is changing the lives for many foster children providing clothing, basic care items and most importantly, enriching their lives.

Wisconsin Foster Closet, a non-profit organization in Menomonie, helps children in the foster system by providing them with essential care items; items many of them have never had.

Marshfield Clinic Health System Nurse Practitioner Brittany Hughes nominated the organization for Security Health Plan’s Employee-Driven Corporate Giving grant. She volunteers at the organization and also serves on the Board. The Health Plan will invest $1,000 in Wisconsin Foster Closet. Each month Security Health Plan awards a different charity or organization that is nominated by a Marshfield Clinic Health System employee, a $1,000 grant. Employees are encouraged to nominate organizations making a positive difference in the community.

“With the help of Security Health Plan’s grant, we are able to provide clothing and other basic care items to children entering the foster care system,” Hughes said. “These children often feel forgotten and this is a simple way to let them know they are loved and remembered. This will enrich the lives of the children and families involved,” she added.

Hughes experienced the eye-opening reality of many children in the foster care system first hand while living in Milwaukee.

“As a former foster parent, I know what it’s like for a child to arrive at your home with only the clothes on their back or a trash bag full of random items,” she said. “This organization provides basic care items for children entering foster care. They also provide support and encouragement for foster families.”

The organization was founded by Tammy Wood-Garr in 2014 after her family welcomed their first foster child into their home. The child had no belongings, no winter clothing and no diapers.

“The little boy came to our home in the middle of winter wearing a pink tutu. There weren’t any resources available in the area to help us; it was heartbreaking,” Wood-Garr explained.

It was then that Wood-Garr recognized a need in her community and began collecting donations out of her home. Since then, they have opened a new facility in Menomonie that foster children, their families and social workers are welcome to ‘shop’ for items, free of charge.

Part of the mission of Wisconsin Foster Closet is to ensure that no child is forced to store their belongings in a trash bag. They provide every child entering foster care with a welcome bag. These duffle bags or backpacks include age appropriate comfort and care items, like a blanket, toothbrush, shampoo and diapers/feminine products.

“Sometimes these kids come with absolutely nothing; without socks or undergarments. But when they leave us, they have dignity and they know that someone cares and loves them,” said Wood-Garr.

Because the organization is completely funded by donations and grants, they are in need of help from the community. Volunteers are always welcome. Every Sunday from 4-7 p.m., volunteers help pack welcome bags and organize items in the closet.

The community is also welcome to attend their upcoming festival and open house held Sept. 7 from 12-4 p.m. The event will feature a silent auction, games, food, music and raffle prizes. The community will also be able to tour the new facility.

In addition to basic need items that the community can donate, Wisconsin Foster Closet accepts gifts, donations and new toys during the holiday season. The Christmas for Kids event helps ensure foster children aren’t forgotten during the holiday season. Winter jackets and clothing items are also in high demand. The community is welcome to donate gently used or new items in a drop-box outside of their Menomonie location. Larger items may also be donated, simply call to arrange a drop-off time.

For more information on Wisconsin Foster Closet or if you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please contact 715-497-3564 or visit www.wifostercloset.org. You may also visit their Facebook page for up-to-date information on upcoming events.