Linda Rogers and Robyn Nance of Spokane’s Teen & Kid Closet have worked tirelessly over the last 15 years to clothe Spokane’s foster youth, the houseless, and kids in need. The two children’s activists found each other years back when they worked together within the foster-care system. Robyn’s work was Wednesday’s Child — a program promoting children waiting to find a permanent family. Her job was to highlight a child in the foster system to find them a family within the community. Linda worked in the recruiting department, finding foster families for these kiddos. Writing stories for their programs, they reviewed a publication regarding a national clothing closet’s opening. Kids often come into care with nothing — just a garbage bag and the clothes on their back.
“Seeing so many kids coming into care with absolutely nothing, we talked about opening our own closet in the Spokane community,” said Rogers. “We saw the need, took the leap, and started Spokane’s first teen closet within one year.” First, only fitting teen clients, they’ve since moved to serve newborn babies through adults 21 years of age.
Linda, herself has been a foster parent for over 25 years. She’s fostered over 100 kids through time spans ranging from one day to life. She’s adopted two children — a daughter that’s now 23 and a son that’s now 21, along with having three biological children of her own, now in their 40s. At 18, many children “age out” of the foster-care system. Some stay in the system until they’re 21, based on whether they plan to go to college or have special needs. Since they’re considered “adults” after 18, it’s their choice to stay within the system, and social workers work together with host families to decide placement if they haven’t been adopted. “You just fall in love with these kids,” explained Rogers. “There’s not a lot of media coverage, but the need for foster families never goes away. Especially for teens, the need is great. These kids need a place to stay, good people in their lives and positive influences.”
Initially, the Teen & Kid Closet comprised two different organizations, the Foster Parent Association and the Teen Closet. The two were in separate facilities located within the same office complex. With one organization closing due to a lack of volunteers, the Teen Closet absorbed the other organization. Quickly, they grew out of the space and moved to 307 East Sprague in Spokane, a large 4000 square-foot building housing any clothing items kiddos in need could require.
“Teen & Kid Closet works on a referral program,” explained Rogers. “Someone official in the community like a counselor, social worker, the HEART (Homeless Education and Resource Team) Program, school principals, and school districts identify children in need. They get online, put in a referral, and contact whoever takes care of that child, whether it’s foster parents or homeless families. If families are staying in a homeless shelter with a phone or internet access, the shelter identifies the family. Some kids are homeless but not living in a home, so someone in the community works to identify them and give them a referral to the closet.”
The closet hosts an open house four times monthly, where referrals meet to shop. “When families come into the closet, they get a shopping list to help keep them organized,” specified Rogers. “The child gets to shop for two pairs of jeans, six shirts, a hat, two pairs of shoes, socks, undies, and everything that they may need. We like to give them at least a week’s worth of clothing, so they have time to get to a laundry mat.” At the closet, they’re pretty generous. If children want to swap an item on their list for something else, they’re welcome to. “We want kids leaving happy with how they’ll look at school the next day,” noted Rogers. “If they have clothes that fit in, then they won’t worry about being bullied or standing out so much. The shopping experience should be something the kids always remember.”
In Spokane, the community always comes together in times of great need. The Teen & Kid Closet comprises a 13-person board of directors and at least 25 volunteers. “A lot of really great work goes on within our community,” declared Rogers. “There are many great non-profits, including Project Beauty Share who donates beauty products to the closet. They give shampoo, makeup, toiletries, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and body wash. For the girls, we often have feminine products in stock. Embrace Washington does a wonderful job supplying for kids in care. Whatever kids need — soccer balls, shoes, clothes, sporting goods, and hobby items are all provided.”
Teen & Kid Closet has a fundraiser coming up on April 30, 2022, called the Bourbon & Bacon Bash. Here, you’ll find 25 local vendors creating concoctions, including either bacon or bourbon. This event is held at the Historic Flight Museum in Spokane. When you buy tickets, the money goes directly to purchasing brand-new socks, underwear, clothing, and shoes for Spokane kiddos. Having to cancel the last two years due to COVID, this will be their first annual Bourbon & Bacon Bash. “We feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to do it this year. Almost 300 tickets have sold thus far,” said Rogers.
In autumn, they have “Socktober Dash” — a fun run where people wear crazy socks and bring sock donations. Toy and game drives happen around Christmas time. Follow and “like” the Teen & Kid Closet Facebook to stay updated on events.
What’s new for Teen & Kid Closet? Currently, they’re working to open a new location to make it easier for kids and families in North Spokane. “We have a space at the old Northwood Middle School in the Mead school district. Kids that get referred in the north part of town will go to that location. We get children from all over — from Mead to Kellogg, to Colville, Washington,” revealed Rogers. “It’s going to open soon, probably by August, making it easier for kids coming from different areas.”
Are you looking to make clothing donations? They’re always excited to receive. “We really need new shoes, and of course socks and underwear, because those aren’t something we can take used. Feminine products, packs of diapers, and toiletries are also in high demand,” clarified Rogers. “Also new and gently used clothing.” Remember when donating, these kids sometimes come into care with only the clothes on their backs. They need nice, trendy, stylish clothing to help kids feel good. Please don’t donate things that are stained, broken, missing buttons (or just plain ugly) because the purpose of this clothing is to help kids fit in and feel inspired.
Teen & Kid Closet
307 E Sprague, Spokane
P.O. Box 4099
Spokane, WA 99220