LEBANON, Ind. — Over the last 10 years, the state of Indiana’s foster care population has experienced the second highest increase in the nation. With 32,000 youth currently in foster care here, there is a growing need for help, particularly when it comes to teens who are often forgotten about when it comes to donations and other support.
But one Zionsville woman was determined to make a change by opening Wishing Wings Boutique back on May 23rd.
The boutique, located on second floor of Central Christian Church (at 311 E. Main Street) in Lebanon, is giving teens in foster care more than just great style.
We’re shopping with heart on this trip “In Your Neighborhood.”
“There are a lot of foster closets for youth, but a lot of them stop at a certain size,” explained Ginger Summers, Founder and Executive Director of Wishing Wings Boutique. “Then, we have all the teenage foster children. Where do they go to get the clothes?”
As a court appointed special advocate (CASA), Summers noticed the need with children — and particularly teens in foster care and kinship– when it comes to their clothing.
Typically, foster families will go to a supply closet, fill out a sheet and are handed items in the appropriate sizes. But at Wishing Wings Boutique, they can come in and actually shop for trendy, new or gently-used items they like and will feel confident in… always free of charge.
“That way, they don’t have to have a hand-me-down, which maybe they’ve always gotten. This way, they can get a brand new item,” she said.
Although Summers was not a foster child herself, she says she has always felt a kinship with them due to her experience moving often due to her father’s job and being enrolled in many different elementary and high schools.
“It was hard being uprooted and moving to a different state and fitting in. And I think with the foster kids, they’re uprooted, they’re taken to a new home with a new school and they need to be able to have that self-esteem to feel good when they go into a new school,” she explained. “Because it is very tough going to a new school and fitting in and if you don’t have the means to wear what the other kids are wearing to fit in, then you feel even more distant.”
That was the motivation behind Summers’ idea to open a boutique like Wishing Wings, where teens and other foster children could experience some normalcy through shopping for items they like and can express themselves proudly through wearing.
At first, she thought she just be running the boutique out of her garage, but quickly realized she was going to require a larger space thanks to all the donations. So she contacted her church about renting one of the former classrooms and—once she received approval—got to work setting up her boutique in a way that would have something for everyone.
They sizes from newborn up to size 38 in men’s and up to a women’s size extra extra large. However, since their focus is on the upper age brackets, they have all the popular brands any teen or pre-teen would love.
“We have new Nike clothes. We have new ADIDAS. We have brand new men’s Land’s End pants,” said Summers. “We have Juicy Couture perfume. We have a couple of brand new Kate Spade skirts… We also have Coach purses.”
You’ll often find brand new items with tags still attached. Plus everything you’d need to style a cool outfit.
There are shoes for boys and girls, swimsuits, fancy dresses and attire, makeup from brands like Tarte and Urban Decay, belts and other accessories, various bags from Vera Bradley and even a separate room full of brand new bedding from brands like Ralph Lauren.
You’ll even find items like games, toys and books. All thanks to donations from the community.
And although her initial grand opening in March was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community was able to turn a negative into a positive by utilizing that time to help even more.
“People were saying, ‘We’re stuck at home so we might as well clean the closets out’ or go through toys or things like that. So I think that has definitely helped us for the better,” she said.
Four Things You Need to Know About Wishing Wings Boutique:
- Ginger Summers decided to open Wishing Wings boutique earlier this year after realizing a particular need for teens in foster care and kinship to have a place to shop for trendy, age-appropriate clothing, bedding and other items—free of charge. She says not only does the experience give them a sense of normalcy, but it also provides them with clothing and an experience that will help boost their self-esteem.
- Wishing Wings Boutique is open one Saturday each month with their next one set for June 20th from 9am-4pm. Or if that date doesn’t work, you can contact them via their website or Facebook to set up a shopping date by appointment.
- In order for foster families to come to Wishing Wings Boutique, they should contact Wishing Wings via their website or Facebook. They will require a placement letter from the Department of Child Services (DCS) or their court-appointed special advocate (CASA), a referral letter from a therapist, or other approved verification.
- In addition to the boutique, Wishing Wings Inc. (which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) also has a Grant-A-Wish program for foster families. “If they want school pictures or to be able to go to the prom, basketball lessons, music lessons, a new bike… anything that may be (one) the little extras that foster kids or kinship children sometimes miss out on, we want to be able to help grant those wishes,” said Summers. “They would just reach out to us and let us know what the needs are and then we would look to our donors to see about donating.”
In order to visit the boutique, the website notes they require a placement letter from DCS, their CASA, or a referral letter stating that you have the youth placed in your care and to bring that letter when they come for their shopping experience.
“Or if it’s a referral from the therapist, we also accept those as well,” Summers added.
Best of all, kids don’t have to be from Boone County to shop at Wishing Wings.
“We actually helped a foster family in White County… [another family] from Tippecanoe County,” she said of their grand opening last month. “So, all surrounding communities are welcome if they want to drive [to us], they are more than welcome to come.”
And no one left empty-handed… or empty-hearted.
“There is still good in the world,” Summers reminds us. “That even with the crazy coronavirus, there’s still good.”