A former hardware store on Kingston Street in Conway is stocked and stacked with children’s jeans and other clothes, shoes, underwear and backpacks for school. In the next three and a half weeks, Fostering Hope will give backpacks and school clothing to 300 to 350 children, says founder Tabby Shelton.
The month of August is an especially busy time at Fostering Hope, and Shelton and her volunteers could use some help. The nonprofit was started by Shelton and her husband Rob in 2004 and has grown to serve hundreds of children from five counties, mostly children in foster care but also others suddenly in need of clothing because of home fires.
Inside the former Hamp’s Hardware, clothing is displayed by ages/sizes for boys and for girls. Jeans for boys sizes 6 and 8 are a serious need because "I have only two pairs on the shelves." Etta Stein of Surfside Beach noted that boys’ underwear is also needed in sizes 6 and 8. Another need is for teen jeans in larger sizes.
Fostering Hope serves children by appointment, from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday.On Tuesday, Shelton was expecting 17 to 22 children. It’s a shopping experience.
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“They get to try on clothes they’ve looked at and selected. Part of the experience is knowing that people do care that you’ve gone through a difficult time.” Shelton says.
“It’s amazing to see attitudes change” … when the young shoppers find clothes they want to wear.
Children in foster care often have been taken abruptly from familiar surroundings with only the clothes they are wearing. The clothing they receive is theirs to keep. Shoes, socks, underwear and school supplies must be new.
Volunteers are needed to sort clothing that’s donated, some of it placed in the collection box just outside the double doors. Part of one morning a week is typical for volunteers, but some may sort only one day a month. Shelton is flexible on the hours and appreciative of whatever time volunteers can come to help. The nonprofit is short-handed because of volunteers’ vacations and one is expecting a baby. “We always can find something for them to do,” she says.
Jeans for boys are always needed. Shelton says some donations are more than gently used and those items are not on the shelves at Fostering Hope. They are passed on to the free clothing closets at Cherry Hill Baptist and Langston Baptist. Some items also go to a mission project in Honduras.
Al Stein, president of the Fostering Hope board of directors, and Etta are steady volunteers, “we’re usually here three days a week, four to six hours a day.” Their son in Maryland is a consistent contributor of Nike shoes that he receives in his work as a consultant. Al Stein recalls he and Etta became volunteers in response to an article in The Sun News when Shelton was starting Fostering Hope.
The nonprofit moved to the former hardware store about a year and a half ago, expanding its space to 6,000 square feet from 3,500 in the former location.