STUART, Fla. — Providing needs for foster children so their families can focus on loving the most vulnerable children in our community. That is the mission of the Treasure Coast Foster Closet.
Ripped from their homes and their parents, sometimes in the middle of the night, most children are handed over to foster families with nothing but what they’re wearing or maybe a garbage bag holding a few things.
"All of my kids have come literally with the clothes on their back, or sometimes they’ve come with things and unfortunately they’re coming from situations that are not always healthy. And so they come with things that are too small or aren’t in great condition," said Ericah Brinson, co-founder of the Treasure Coast Foster Closet.
Brinson and her husband have had nine children come through their home. They have adopted four. Their journey began in 2015.
"My husband and I wanted to start a family and unfortunately that was just not happening naturally and we were kind of at a crossroads where we could venture into the world of medicine and try to do it that way, or we could explore adoption, and it just felt right. Once we started thinking about adoption, talking about that and learning about it, it just kind of clicked for us," said Brinson.
Sabrina Brinson, Ericah’s sister-in-law, has also opened up her home to foster children and has adopted one of them.
"I grew up in a rough childhood, so in and out of different homes and it was mostly family though, so that worked out for me. I knew I wanted to give back to children who don’t have a stable home," said Sabrina Brinson.
Once the Brinsons were plugged into the local network of foster families, they realized how great the need really was. They started a Facebook support page where families could post items they needed or had to give away.
"We kind of became like a drop off point, both of us, at our houses. People would just drop things off and see if we could give it to anyone who could use it. That quickly became a little overwhelming as you can imagine, because people really do want to step up and help. They were so generous with their items," said Ericah Brinson.
From there, the Brinsons decided to reach out and ask if anyone had a connection or was interested in helping them find storage space.
"Within 24 hours of that, we had someone step up and offer to pay for a storage unit for an entire year for us. So we got a 10-by-20 storage unit with no air conditioning. Once the community found out, it just blew up. People just felt good about giving to a cause like this rather then dropping their stuff off at, you know, somewhere that was going to profit off of it. It got really big really quick and we quickly outgrew that space," said Ericah Brinson.
Now the Treasure Coast Foster Closet is set up just like a store within a Stuart shopping center. The side door has a keypad with a code that verified foster parents have access to.
"They can come 24/7 because no one knows when you get a placement. So it could be like the middle of the night and they know they can just come here, get whatever they need, blankets, clothes for that night because we really don’t know how long a child is going to be staying. This way it’s not a financial strain on them and they can get the child whatever they need, all their needs met any time of day," said Sabrina Brinson.
More than just helping the foster parents in a pinch is the fact that the Treasure Coast Foster Closet gives children dignity and makes them feel special and loved during what is one of the most trying times of their lives.
"Seeing just how these kids really have nothing and they have no idea that they’d ever be able to come to a place and pick out whatever they want and they’ll even ask us sometimes, are you sure? I can have that too? And we’re like, yes, take anything you want! Just to see the joy on their faces and you can tell they just feel loved, they feel seen, they feel important and that makes it all worth it. Every bit of work that we put into this place, 100% worth it," said Ericah Brinson.
Everything in the store is donated and carefully sifted through. You can find toys, clothing for newborns to teens, every baby item you can imagine including formula plus room décor. There is no limit on the number of items a child can take.
Cyndi Wallen said the Treasure Coast Foster Closet has been a lifesaver for her family. She was given the duty to raise five grandchildren.
"There was no question as to whether or not we would do it. The question in our minds was how we were going to do it. The answer to that question, was with the help of two amazing ladies who had the foresight to know that there was a great need for a place that people who were raising children who were in the system, could go to to get help with the needs of the children placed in their care," said Wallen.
While you may be blown away by their selflessness, the Brinsons are equally as grateful for the way the Treasure Coast community has wrapped its love around foster families. Ericah Brinson said she is in awe every time she walks into the storefront.
If you are interested in donating any items or volunteering to the Treasure Coast Foster Closet, you can find more information through their Facebook page by clicking here, or by going to their website by clicking here.