The TWIG (The Way to Inspire & Grow) is a free clothing store in Venice, FL specially created for children in foster care. Once a month, children can shop for outfits, undergarments, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and even some personal care items such as makeup, all for free.
Callie Cowan, Executive Director of the TWIG, reached out to Harvest House to explore opportunities for our organizations to advance each of our missions through partnership. There are currently two New Heights clients that have aged out of foster care, so Callie set up a personal shopping experience for them and offered to continue this relationship for our clients in the future.
The two young women in New Heights have each grown up in foster care all over the state of Florida. One has experienced significant trauma in family abuse and she’s actively working on healing. She bounced around with a few remaining family members until she ended up in a group home. The other client comes from a family history of addiction; her father died when her mother was pregnant with her, and her mother died by suicide a few years later. Many of her other family members have also passed away because of untreated addiction.
The girls’ case managers from the Safe Children’s Coalition found beds for them at Harvest House a few months ago. One was couch-hopping after serving time for a misdemeanor crime, and the other moved into a Harvest House apartment on her 18th birthday. Andrea, Harvest House Outreach Youth Advocate, recalls getting the referral; “We knew right away that they were a perfect fit for the New Heights transitional living program for unaccompanied youth. They were on their own for the first time but extremely driven despite their circumstances. They really wanted a better life.”
Andrea has seen such a breakthrough over the last few weeks just by spending time and creating relationships with these young women at the Youth Center. “They both have really blossomed, and I can see that there is still so much more to each of them.”
“They both have really blossomed, and I can see that there is still so much more to each of them.”
One Saturday after the girls finished their work shifts, Andrea drove them down to Venice for their appointment at the TWIG. “On the way down, the girls were worried that the TWIG wouldn’t have any plus-size clothing items for them, and if they did, they didn’t think they would be fashionable. The girls said that they have been to places like this before and they’re usually disappointed, but when they got there, they were incredibly surprised at the huge selection of high-quality pieces in their sizes.”
They picked out items with Callie’s help and tried everything on. Andrea witnessed how important it was to make the girls feel good about themselves. “It was an amazing experience to see them light up like that. They’ve been grouped for so long as just ‘foster kids’ in a ‘foster home,’ but this was an individualized experience created just for them. Callie really took the time to talk to them and listen to their stories. They felt really special for one of the first times and that is nothing short of life-changing. They left with their shopping bags and their hearts so full.”
Harvest House is building relationships with clients in order to open pathways to sustainable living for them. The Youth Services team hosts events both in the Youth Center and out in the community to find young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 that may not reach out for services on their own but are definitely in need.
For those that are living at Harvest House, the Youth Services staff often take the time to teach clients things that most of us may take for granted. For example, the importance of boundaries, how to have and respect privacy, and even taking the garbage out. The Outreach Youth Advocate role is that of a teacher and big sister, which is crucial for any young person on their own.
“When the girls first arrived at Harvest House, they didn’t want to talk to me. They were very afraid, and they didn’t want to get plugged into our community. But, by taking the time to go into their apartment and check in with them, and by asking questions or sharing my own experiences, I was able to show them that they can trust me. They’ve opened up so much more to both me and other people in our community. One of the young women recently said to me: ‘Before I came to Harvest House, no one took the time to really know me, or care for me, and now I’m here and you’re pushing me to be better and grow. For the first time, I realize that I deserve that for myself.’”
Since the shopping experience at the TWIG, the girls appear more driven to achieve their goals. They were wanting to better themselves before, but there is a new level of ambition that is coming from a place of self-love. “This experience, believe it or not, has helped them learn how to love on themselves a little bit more. Their drive to be better comes from a deeper place now. They make comments like ‘oh I can wear this for my job interview!’ or ‘this is perfect for class!’ and that impact is incalculable.”
One component of New Heights involves clients setting goals for themselves in the areas of Vocation, Leadership, Social, Education, Financial, Health, and Dreams. One of the girl’s goals is to pay off her student loans and get back into school. The other’s goal is to find a new job and finish her GED.
To support New Heights, make a financial gift here.
You can also purchase specific items that New Heights youth need.