Danielle Calhoun has been a foster parent for the past two years.

One thing she’s learned is that when foster children come for placement, they rarely have more than the clothes on their back. Her first foster child didn’t even have shoes; he had an outfit and a dirty sippy-cup.

Her second foster child came with nothing. The child was a newborn coming straight from the hospital.

Because of this, Calhoun began stockpiling clothes, toys and other supplies to have something available whenever she gets takes in a child − and swapping items with fellow foster parents. Her closets were so full that her husband said she should open something.

That sparked an idea to create a location where other foster parents could get things they need.

“I started renting a small storage unit and took everything out of my house,” she said. “It just grew from there.”

Thus Calhoun created The Caring Closet with a group of other women.

Now located in the basement of 903 Superior Ave. (the former Post Office building), The Caring Closet Inc. has everything a foster parent might need to care for a child. Items include strollers, toys, various sizes of clothing, bedding and beds.

The storage area is filled to bursting, said Stacey Zellmer, one of the women involved in the creation of The Caring Closet.

“We started loading stuff into here three months ago, and after it got cleaned up and ready to go, it’s like ‘OK, everybody come get stuff because we’re ready,’” she said. “We’re overflowing with the generous donations. It’s been an outpouring from the community to us of ‘I got something, I can help.’ It’s been amazing, and people don’t realize the need is there until it was brought to their attention.”

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In addition to picking up and switching out items, Calhoun said the organization offers a “clubhouse” for social workers and children to relax.

“If a social worker needs to remove a child and they’re looking for one of us foster parents, they could come here and hang out instead of going and sitting in a scary office,” she said.

Calhoun said she became a foster parent after working at a Head Start, where she became motivated to make a difference in a children’s lives.

“I want to be the middle mom. I have no desire to adopt; I just want to be there when the kids need somebody,” she said.

Zellmer is amazed with what Calhoun has created.

“I love to support whatever she does because she’s amazing,” she said. “She never takes enough credit for what she does, because it doesn’t matter what somebody needs, she will find a way.”

Calhoun has acquired the paperwork to start the process of becoming a non-profit. She said assisting foster parents is critical every child “deserves an opportunity and a chance.”

“The drug epidemic and trying to get people to overcome so many challenges they’re facing, it’s just rough,” she said.

The Caring Closet welcomes donations. Those looking to donate or receive more information on the organization can visit facebook.com/The-Caring-Closet-Inc-2258446484269378/. The organization also has a GoFundMe page gofundme.com/f/the-caring-closet-inc, where donations are accepted.

The organization is looking for totes and shelving for the storage area and is seeking a plumber to help get their bathroom up and running.

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.


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