Most teen girls love shopping for stylish clothes and trendy accessories. But that is often an unaffordable dream for young girls who live in foster care. Many were taken away from their families because of abuse, abandonment or neglect. In this report by Faiza Elmasry (read by Faith Lapidus), we learn of a teenager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who reached out to foster care girls in her community and offered them not just a shopping spree, but hope.
Lindsay Giambattista was only 14 when she learned about girls in foster care and had a chance to help them.
"I needed community service hours for high school," she recalls.
To fulfill the school's volunteer service requirement for graduation, Giambattista collected and donated used clothes to foster care children. But she thought she could do more, so she contacted Pastor Doug Sauder, president of 4Kids of South Florida, an organization that supports and helps foster children.
"I thought that was quite unusual for a 14 year-old girl to schedule an appointment with me," he says. "But she walked in, sat down in my office. She said, 'I really love to shop. I love clothes. I've also heard of girls in foster care and met a few of them. I know that a lot of them have to wear second hand clothing. I want to bring a little joy, a little hope into their lives by giving them a brand new outfit, a really nice one.'"
With Pastor Sauder's help, Giambattista began taking steps toward creating a store just for foster girls in his organization's building.
"Lindsay made a presentation to the corporate board in RCC, a company that builds shopping malls," he says. "RCC decided to donate $50,000 just to build a nice, wood floor, beautiful store. We donated the space."
Giambattista called the store Taylor's Closet, after her twin sister who died at birth.
"Then, we had this beautiful store, but we had no clothes in it," she says. "So I started contacting family and friend. We first got personal donations from people. Then, I started contacting fashion designers, retailers and wholesalers. We started getting designer clothing, brand names with tags on it. We just started getting tons of clothes."
Since Taylor's Closet opened its doors in December 2006, more than 350 girls in the foster-care system have come in to browse through its racks of clothes. Each girl can get up to six garments a month, for free.
The store is open two days a week, Tuesdays after school, and Saturdays. Giambattista, now 17, runs it with the help of friends like Meghan Burke. She says Taylor's Closet is more than just a humanitarian effort.
"Yes, we're called to clothe the naked," she says. "but I really didn't see the vision behind it until I actually was a part of seeing the girls and how they regain a sense of confidence in themselves and feel beautiful, feel good about who they are."
Their clients, Burke says, also find Taylor's Closet a safe place, where they can come in, talk and feel loved and supported.
"You get to know them after a while," she says. "They begin to open up a little more and just share a lot of their stories. These girls are dealing with depression, anger, loneliness, the feeling of rejection and abandonment. You can hear it in their voices and their hearts, they struggle with these things."
Doug Sauder of 4Kids of South Florida is delighted with the success of Taylor's Closet. He calls it an example of what teenagers can do to help other teens. More importantly, he adds, it shows that young people can help solve problems in their communities.
"A lot of times, when there is a problem in society, we only offer opportunities for adults to get involved," he says. "A lot of us leave kids out and say 'they are the future, the future community leaders.' Lindsay says, 'No, I'm a leader right now. I'm just a young leader.' She found a way to make a difference even at 14."
Lindsay Giambattista's dream doesn't stop here. She hopes Taylor's Closet will move into a bigger space where they can also have a warehouse and a café. She'd also like to see similar stores open, eventually, across the country and all over the world.