WORDS: Amy Treis
PICTURES: Whitney Patton
“You don’t have to be a foster parent to do foster care. Use your voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves.” Tori Hope Petersen, FFY (Former Foster Youth), spoke these words in the hope of raising awareness for the beauty of becoming a foster parent.
It is a vital role that will aid in the success of children who are in the unforeseen predicament of foster care. These adults forge a path for these children to see the beauty of life that is possible for them, and for that reason, foster parents are heroes that deserve as much support and encouragement as possible.
There is such a blessed place for support of foster families in the wonderful non-profit establishment called, The Twig, which stands for “The Way to Inspire and Give.” Since 2016, The Twig, which boasts a location in Venice and a new store at 9706 SR-64E in Bradenton, has come to the aid of the foster community by serving as a resource for foster families. Their mission is to encourage and inspire the lives of children in foster care by meeting their needs in practical ways.
Through the love and devotion of the founders, Lloyd and Dianne Reed, these stores flourished to allow foster families the opportunity to shop with dignity in elegant settings. The Reeds understood the value of foster parents when they adopted their own daughter and saw how much she thrived under the care of her foster mom. They wanted to make sure all foster parents could provide a loving environment for their foster children, and thus, the concept to create an inviting store was born.
The mission behind The Twig is “to inspire and encourage foster families by meeting their needs.” Nicole Britton, the Director of Development for The Twig, takes pride in fostering this mission daily. She is proud to promote the three keywords of the store: Believe, Empower, and Thrive. Nicole started at The Twig as a volunteer in 2017 and was quite active on the fundraising committee.
Her dedication to this organization led to the opening of the second store in 2020 because she was so active in sharing the mission with the community. Through her persistence in opening the eyes of others to the needs of the foster community, she has been able to share the stories of how The Twig blesses the children, which encourages them to find a way to get involved. As Nicole is proud to state, “our core value is that we are blessed to be a blessing.” Nothing could be truer than this statement.
A child’s confidence can carry them throughout the most difficult of times. Imagine being in foster care and the uncertainty of if you will be adopted before you are 21. The Reeds and Nicole Britton realize that sometimes the simplest gesture of kindness can make a world of difference. Therefore, The Twig is such a value to the foster care community. It not only helps the foster families, but it gives others a challenge in their lives to support such a mission.
The Twig relies on donations of clothing, shoes, and personal items for the children in foster care to choose for themselves. As they enter the brightly lit and cheerily decorated store, they sense they are entering a boutique that could be found on Rodeo Drive.
Imagine the children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory entering the Chocolate Room and their astonishment at the glory of all the delicious edible treats. Such is the feeling a child will feel upon entering The Twig.
The Twig established a reliable schedule for the children from ages newborn to teen, who are in care with a supervising agency, to shop for necessary items once a month. They are allowed to choose seven items in addition to undergarments, socks, and accessories. The Twig in Venice has exclusive shopping days on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month from 9 am to 2 pm, and The Twig in Bradenton has shopping days on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 9 am to 2 pm. What an extremely helpful resource for foster families to help them provide the best life possible for their wards.
While The Twig inspires confidence and hope in its clients, it also motivates kind-hearted souls to dedicate time and effort towards the store’s success. The shopping days are made possible not only by the donation of the clothing and supplies but by amazing people who volunteer their time to act as “personal shoppers” for the sweet clientele. There are monthly drop-off days that astonishing people can donate needed items at the Venice and Bradenton stores from 4-6 pm.
There is a wish list on their website for specific items, but they truly accept whatever the heart wishes to donate. In addition to these generous donations, one can lift the spirit of The Twig by attending or sponsoring their annual fundraising events, such as The Twig Auction and the Turkey Trot, 5K race. Finally, what better way to advertise the delightful ministry of The Twig than by wearing some of the beautifully designed “Twig Swag.”
This simple act can make all the difference to opening the eyes to the magical giving spirit that The Twig casts upon the community. It should also be noted that any items that are not purchased at the store are donated to other charities, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Loveland Center, or they are sold to raise more funds for The Twig.
Nicole Britton would also be proud to mention how the goodness of The Twig does not stop with children in foster care. They have created a program called “Twig Box,” for people who are at least 21 years old and have aged out of the foster care program. Volunteers put together a mixed package of personal care and hygiene products (and some fun surprises along the way.) These are then shipped to the individuals at the address they fill out on the website application for free. The saying of “every little bit helps” is exemplified in this action because even purchasing necessary items for daily survival can be a struggle.
There are three keywords that The Twig instills in all who are involved in its mission: Believe, Empower, and Thrive. The Reeds, Nicole, and so many other blessed community members have dedicated their time to helping kids believe they are of value to society.
They can empower children with confidence so they can face tomorrow with a purpose, and finally, children who thrive in foster care can develop into giving and exemplary adults. Such invigorating convictions are what make The Twig a truly unique and special contribution to the Gulf Coast region.