Fosters reStore began as an act of kindness. When David and Christine Fricke initially opened their home to foster children, they noticed a disturbing trend. The children were often dropped off with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
David reached out to other foster parents and learned this is a common occurrence. The children would have no choice but to wear the same clothes every day to school until their new foster parents had the opportunity and funds to replenish their wardrobes. The battered and worn clothes marked the children with a social stigma that seemed particularly cruel during an already traumatic time in their lives. After several frantic late-night shopping trips with newly arrived children, David had an idea.
David and Christine reached out to members of their Wisconsin community and soon had a garage full of donated clothes that became available to local children coming into care. But they realized that a garage full of boxes and bags was not the ideal solution.
“I thought, ‘How are we bettering the foster child’s sense of worth by making him dig through a tote of clothing?’ This is not productive or not conducive to our mission which is to give the kids some control in their life in a time when they have no control,” David says. So they bought clothing racks, display shelves, and moved the operation into unused retail space at the Frickes’ graphics company. Fosters reStore was born.
Since opening, Fosters reStore has grown into a 24,000-square-foot megastore in Racine, Wisconsin. The store sells everything from clothes to toys to housewares. By opening up sales to the public, the Frickes are able to fund continued support for children in foster care. Each child in care receives a monthly credit they can use to shop for clothes completely free of charge.
The Frickes take great care to keep their store clean, bright, and well organized. The store looks more like a department store than your average thrift store. Children can pick out clothes that fit properly and in styles they actually like, an experience that provides them with dignity and a sense of individuality.
As a nonprofit organization, Fosters reStore operates on razor-thin margins. Without an advertising budget, the Frickes joined Wish Local to help spread awareness and increase foot traffic to the store. “We put the Wish counter in the far back corner so people would have to walk all the way through the store. It worked out so well. Right away we started seeing new customers we’d never seen before,” David says. “We have Wish regulars who are now regular shoppers at our store. It’s added to our bottom line, but the marketing benefits [the program provides] have been great.”
Over the years, the Frickes have welcomed at least 20 children into their family through the foster system, and they laugh as they struggle to remember the exact number. Caring for these children is simply a part of the fabric of their family, which includes two teenage daughters. Fricke uses his store as a platform to directly assist the Department of Children and Family Services. He explains, “They [DCFS] will call to say they have low-income parents coming in, and they need a bunk bed for two kids. We’ll post out there for a bunk bed for two kids coming into foster care. And we had a bunk bed at our doorstep in 20 minutes. It’s amazing the power of this whole organization and the people behind it.”
The Frickes hope to expand Fosters reStore with new locations in other cities. In partnering with Wish, they aspire to reach more people and gain traction for their mission. After a pandemic-related closure, Fosters reStore is now open and continues to bring normalcy and comfort to children in care.
Every dollar makes a difference. If you are so moved, donations to Foster reStore can be made here.
To learn more about becoming a Wish Local location, please click here.