It has been a successful first year for My Father’s Closet, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the lives of children taken into foster care.
“We served 29 children in Warren County in the month of October,” said Detra Whiles, founder of My Father’s Closet.
The organization has humble beginnings.
“We started in December of last year,” said Whiles. “It all started from a Facebook post. My friend told me about two foster children who needed essential items. I was asking if anyone had anything that they’d like to give away for Christmas and to please post it. We ended up getting clothes and other items for them.”
A Department of Children’s Services officer reached out to inquire if there were any items remaining from the collection effort.
“We didn’t have anything, but we were determined to make that happen” said Whiles. “Those children had absolutely nothing. We got them what they needed – clothes, backpacks, etc. It was at that time that I said, ‘Alright Lord, if this is what you want, let’s make it happen.’”
By February, the organization had a name, a location and a storage unit. That storage unit quickly became two.
“The Lord sent Lacey Jones to help me,” said Whiles. “We wanted to establish a place where foster and kinship families can go and get five days of clothes. For that, we really needed a permanent place. We reached out to Young Men United in hopes of relocating there and even went before city officials, but it didn’t happen. I said, ‘If the Lord wants us to move, he will send us something.’ We kept working out of the storage units.”
She was contacted by Reece Moore and Stacey Harvey, who offered a rental space behind Advanced Auto Parts on North Chancery Street.
“Stacey and his wife offered to pay the first half year’s rent for us,” said Whiles. “Again, that was the Lord providing. We signed a contract in June. We have racks of clothes, toys, bottles, dressers, mattresses – anything and everything that a child could possibly need, birth to 17 years. Everything is free of charge to foster and kinship families in Warren County.”
As she has since the beginning, Whiles gives all the glory to God.
“It has been a blessing to see God move and work,” said Whiles. “We knew the Lord was calling us to something bigger. You just have to let Him lead. If you want to know how God can work, come stand next to me. I had no idea what I was doing in starting a nonprofit organization. If I needed something, He supplied it. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. Still doesn’t. I’m just following His guidance.”
There was some initial hesitation to get started.
“I guess, maybe, I was scared of failure,” said Whiles. “A friend told me that if I make a difference in the life of one child, I’m not a failure. Here we are almost a year later. Once a family establishes with us, they can come back once a month and shop with us. It’s free. The children get to shop. They get to pick what they want or need. We don’t take anything that’s not in very good condition. If I wouldn’t let my child wear it, we don’t keep it.”
My Father’s Closet is only available to foster and kinship families and by appointment only. Visit the organization on its Facebook page for more information.