There was the little girl removed from her troubled home with not much of her own who found clothes she said made her feel like a princess.
There were two young sisters about to be separated because a foster parent could not accommodate both but then a bed was donated.
There was the teen away at college who wrote “All I want is food. I would not feel right asking for anything else.” He was provided with an improved meal card, non-perishable food, cookware and dishes.
This is the work of Lindsey Kate’s Closet.
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The nonprofit in Columbus founded by social worker Tracie Faison in 2011 has as its mission to do anything to minimize the grief and loss that come with children spending time in foster care.
Its belief is every child deserves unconditional love, their basic needs met, guidance, encouragement, and the ability to enjoy fun and age appropriate activities like their peers.
The motto is Sowing Good S.E.E.D.S. (Supporting, Educating, Empowering, Developing and Strengthening youth).
“Helping these children is my passion,” said the Troy University graduate. “I want to make an impact. I have always had a servant’s heart.”
The Fortson, Ga., resident is also the founder of the Etiquette & Leadership Academy, which helps children and young adults develop soft skills through lunch and learn sessions, summer camps and private sessions. She also operates One Stop Consulting, which provides training, consultation, strategic planning and program development services to agencies and organizations serving the foster care and adoption population.
She considers her work in these areas as a ministry.
“All three of these ventures required a lot of prayer and a leap of faith” Faison said.
She said she keeps prayer and Luke 9:16 at the forefront of her decision making.
Luke 9:16 reads: “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.”
And with all of her work, she still has time to enjoy life with her husband Stacy and daughter Lindsey Kate.
“Trusting in God allows me to do the other things that bring me joy. Often times, people think you have to give up one for the other. I am a testament that you can have it all with the right perspective. At the end of the day, God gets the glory,” Faison said.
As she talked, Faison, who has 20 years of experience in social services, stood in the room at Benchmark Family Services on Manchester Expressway. The room is filled with clothes, toys and other items for foster families to obtain.
“It is a blessing to have Lindsey Kate’s Closet here,” said Stephanie Fears, regional director for Benchmark, a therapeutic foster care agency working with children with moderate to severe problems.
“Children who come to us do not always have the necessities such as toothpaste, deodorant and shoes,” Fears said.
A Brundidge, Ala., native, Faison first got interested in this work after serving as an intern in a therapeutic foster care program much like Benchmark.
“It was during that time, I got to see the system from many different aspects and work with some of the most vulnerable children. Many of them entered foster care extremely broken with all their belongings in trash bags. I did not come from a wealthy family, but I was blessed with unconditional love, learned good character, and all my basic needs were met. To witness so many children with great potential experience extreme hardships while trying to navigate a complex system was an eye opening experience,” Faison said.
Constantly seeking support, she said she wants people to imagine being a young child or teen abruptly removed from their home and not having the opportunity to get their favorite pillow, that special toy, pictures and all of the things that are dear to them. Imagine being away from your parents and the place you call home. Although efforts are made to make such moves temporary, often, a weekend turns into years.
“I didn’t know that I would go on to work over 20 years in social work, become a consultant in the field, develop programs, and start a nonprofit organization, but I knew I would advocate for that child. It’s always good when you can provide items that help children hold on to some level of dignity, but it brings unspeakable joy when you play a role in maintaining sibling connections,” she said.
Through the years, Lindsey Kate’s Closet has provided support to hundreds of children associated with Muscogee Division of Family and Children Services, Bethany Christian Services, New Horizons, Our House at Carpenter’s Way Ranch, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and the Anne Elisabeth Sheppard Home.
Recently, the organization has provided help to the Russell County Department of Human Resources.
Faison said that initially the focus was taking care of the basics like clothes, personal care items, duffel bags, and comforting toys and books, etc., for emergency related placements.
But over the years that has expanded to hosting community awareness events in celebration of National Foster Care Month and National Adoption Month and providing sponsorship for special events hosted by agencies that serve this population. Gift cards and care packages have been provided for older youth in care.
With the help of volunteers and donors physical closets were established at Muscogee County DFACS in 2011 and Benchmark Family Services in 2014 making it easy for social workers and foster parents to access items with speed.
“Because children in foster care are up against a lot more than their peers they need advocates behind the scene and people willing to fill in the gap.”