When I became involved with FLOC eight years ago, I had absolutely no idea of the education I was going to receive. It has been a journey of heartbreak, of compassion, of empathy, of joy, of darkness and of colors never before seen or recognized. The path that our children broken in the system walk is just that- covered in dirt and leaves and impossible, impassible branches. And the fact that you can bring light to that path, clear it a bit, and give that child a hand to hold along the way, there are no words to the significance of that gesture, and making the time to do so.
Children in foster care are moved anywhere from 7-9 times throughout their high school years. Take a minute to let that in. Seven to nine different families that you do not call your own, seven to nine different populations of hormonal high schoolers that you’ve never met- fitting in where your own life doesn’t fit. Kids in foster care don’t go to their proms or homecomings- they don’t know anyone, and they don’t want to.
Every year, Children’s Services through Independent Living hosts a Winter Ball specifically for children in foster care. When I first heard about the ball, I ran into a young lady at the Haines Building (housing Montgomery Children’s Services) and asked her if she were going to the Ball. She looked at me with a dark look and said, “who has the money for a stupid ball? What am I supposed to wear to something stupid like that?” So I asked her if I could find a ball gown for her to wear, would she be interested in going? Her response was vague, or maybe something I shouldn’t print. A friend and I were then on a mission. We had seven gowns donated, and brought them in the next week. My friend and I brought the young lady into a room where we had haphazardly hung these beautiful, glittery gowns on pegs set in the barren, grey wall. The magic of the artistry of woven fabric against the grainy cracked surface said much in the moment. I said, “now, if you could choose one of these gown, would you go to the ball?” The girl narrowed her sharp eyes and said “yeah, like how long would I get this… Like a couple of hours? A day? I don’t have money for dry cleaning, you know.” And I said, “oh no, no honey- if you choose this gown, it goes home with you- this would be yours to keep.” And she started crying. And I was SO in. I had once been a telemarketer for approximately two hours. I hated that job- I don’t think I waited for my third hang up to quit. But now, if I like the outfit you have on, it had better be super glued to your body. My friend and I went around the city of Dayton and filled our cars with glorious donations, and we moved from our ugly pegboard to a nice office in the Barclay Building. Then we gathered more donations. Shoes, purses, hygiene bags, jewelry, you name it- More and more, from the wonderful people of Dayton, and by the pretty stores that sell pretty things to us so that our youth can feel pretty. We moved again to our current storefront location at 120 West First Street; our window display is so beautiful that the building owner told other storefront people to up their game, to take a look at our Boutique and step it up! (I can say that- I had NOTHING to do with the decoration). Those dear children who come into our Boutique have a Cinderella night of magic. We can now add to the beauty of choice of clothing for the children we serve- we have hairdressers, make up artists, the possibility of a limo- it has been a remarkable journey that we have lived with our Boutique.
We are now in the process of sharing our Boutique with inner city schools whose children might be in need of this resource. We never offer a hand out, this is again provided to children who are doing good things in their lives, whether it be volunteering in our community, or helping others in need. We ask for a letter of intent from the youth, and a letter of reference from an adult they know, and we honor them. It’s a matter of empowerment, and of celebration. And it is just a beautiful thing to participate in.
Come on down and see us- bring a dress or two!