ZEELAND, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - More than 1 million children nationwide are in foster care waiting for permanent homes.
Tonight, a former West Michigan foster child is using her experiences to help others.
It's the first of its kind in the state--a store, run on donations, exclusively for teens in the foster care system.
The founder, a Zeeland resident, said her own experience in foster care inspired her to reach out to others.
Casandra Collins now spends her days working as a stylist.
Her store, Rick Rack, is named after her foster father who passed away in 2004.
It caters to more than 60 of the 150 kids in foster care in Ottawa and Allegan Counties, geared toward those ages 11 to 17.
"I had been in foster care and aged out of the system, so I kinda got what it was like to fel like you were on your own and not really have any support," Collins said.
She opened the store--run on community donations--in January of 2011, years afer being placed in foster care at age 13.
Once a month, her clients now meet with a stylist for private appointments, they're fitted and take home six items free of charge.
A 17-year-old that we talked to told us that she had nothing to call her own before Rick Rack.
Collins hopes that with the boost passed along to teens in need, some will find the strength, like she has, to share their experiences with others.
"I think a lot of people need to know that children need to be loved and cared for and not thrown away," a foster teen said. "I am thankful for the help Cassandra has given to me to help move on with my life."
Collins said there are another 400-500 refugee teens here in the state, not included in the foster care numbers.
Rick Rack has also opened their doors to those children in the area, and down the road, hopes to be able to accommodate foster kids of all ages.
Zeeland store runs on donations, caters to foster kids
Did you know that there are 19,000 MICHIGAN children in foster care? And 4,600 of those are waiting for a permanent home? Often we think of orphans as children who live in third world countries, or images we see on television or in the newspaper. But they’re not just around the world, they’re also right here in our own backyard.
Did you know that many of them leave their homes with nothing more than a garbage sack of clothes? Imagine how children must feel when they’re removed from their homes, often with nothing more than the clothes on their back and a garbage bag filled with whatever they were able to quickly pack.
Could you imagine taking your belongings everywhere you went? I can. I was a recipient of foster care 29 years ago. I remember the day my sister and I were removed from our home. It was traumatic and we were only allowed to take one paper sack of clothing along with us. We shared everything, even our underwear and socks. They were not new items and showed much wear and tear of two 13 year old girls.
RICK RACK – a vision born:
A friend of mine sent me an email asking about 4Kids of south Florida . That is where I came across Taylor’s Closet. Taylor’s Closet was started by a 14 year old girl who was looking for a place she could serve. She and some friends began collecting nearly new and new clothing and invited foster girls to shop and experience what most teenage girls experience in a healthy environment. She and other teens on the advisory board created Taylor’s Closet and minister to every girl that comes to shop. What began as an idea is now a store providing designer labeled clothing from all over the world.
We could do that, right here in our own backyard. Brainstorming with this same friend we came up with the name “Rick Rack” to honor my foster dad, Rick Englert. Rick passed away suddenly in May 2004 of pancreatic cancer. Rick had a gift of ministering to hurting kids who faced circumstances out of their control and demonstrated Christs love to them. He was, to me, the hands and feet of Christ.
RICK RACK - The Love of Christ in Action:
Rick Rack would allow girls and boys in foster care, and in need to come into a store-like environment and “shop” for whatever clothes they liked - free of charge. The idea is to put a smile on their face for a moment and let them know they are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and showered with love.
Our ultimate vision is to open up our clothing ministry to all children, of all ages, domestic and refugee, serving the Allegan and Ottawa counties. Check out our story on Channel 3 ~ positively Michigan.
“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name, welcomes me” - MATTHEW 18: 5
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