"I saw a need that could easily be filled with a little bit of work."
Inspired by a 12-year-old selfless child, Milissa Boykin, 43, developed Kara’s Kloset to provide foster families in southern Mississippi with clothing, basic supplies and support.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Milissa: I belong to the South Mississippi Foster Parent Association and have been a foster/adoptive parent for 4 years. I saw a great need for support for the foster parents and children in our area. I went to the association with the idea of starting a clothes closet to help with basic needs of children coming into the system.
A building was donated to us and the donations of clothes, beds, diapers, school uniforms and many other items started coming in. We have since outgrown our building and are searching for a kind person to maybe donate a bigger building. In the Kloset we provide a resource library with books dealing with parent and children's issues; offer support for foster parents; sponsor Christmas parties to help provide Christmas gifts for the kids; and we have an Easter party planned for this year, too. We just keep growing. I say “we” because it may have been my idea, but I could never have gotten off the ground without the volunteer foster parents who freely give their time.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Milissa: Kara’s Closet, Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Milissa: The foster parents and foster/adoptive children benefit from the Kloset. Sometimes vouchers are not available for several months, and this causes a hardship on the foster parents. We provide basic necessities for these families. All items are donated by the community although we did receive a small startup grant from AdoptUSKids.org, and several businesses in our area have contributed.
What inspired you to get involved?
Milissa: As a foster parent, I saw a need that could easily be filled with a little bit of work.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Milissa: The foster parent support group was floundering with no real direction. I approached them with my idea, and they loved it.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Milissa: A little girl came in with her new foster mom. She had matted hair and dirty, ragged clothes and no shoes. After brushing her hair and putting barrettes in it, washing her face and giving her a brand new dress and shoes, she looked in the mirror and said, “Miss Milissa, I am beautiful, ain't I?” All I could do was stand there and cry. It was a touching moment to think this was a beautiful child who probably never had on anything new in her life. To that child, I made a difference.
What is/was the hardest part?
Milissa: I have not found a hard part yet. Everyone has been so receptive to this. I love my work and the people who come in to help. I especially love the children.
What was the biggest surprise?
Milissa: The outpouring of love and support from the community.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Milissa: I have learned how to do paperwork and get over my fear of asking for financial contributions for something I truly believe in. If it's for the kids, I will ask anyone. So far, we have gotten most of what we need.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Milissa: Go for it! It is the most rewarding thing you will ever experience.
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