What is arguably the nicest clothing store in Houston isn’t for everyone, it’s for children in the foster care system.
Launched in early 2021, Fostering by Faith Boutique features all the style and pizazz of an upscale retail store, but there’s one big difference: Everything on the shelves and racks is free.
The project was founded in early 2021 by attorney Kimberly Lowe, who has offices in Houston and her hometown of Waynesville. The original store was in a 500 square foot building on Walnut Street next to Lowe’s Houston office. But now, Fostering by Faith Boutique occupies a 2,000 square foot space directly above Lowe’s office, and in every way resembles an upscale retail store.
“We want these kids to come in and feel like they’re loved by this community in a way that’s tangible,” Lowe said. “This is something special that’s just for them.”
There are about 600 children in the Foster Care system in Missouri’s 25th judicial circuit (which includes Texas, Maries, Phelps and Pulaski counties), many of those residing in Texas County. Lowe said each one receives a stipend of only about $300 a year to purchase clothing and other needed items.
“That doesn’t go very far at all,” Lowe said.
Volunteering to help run the store are Joy Hinkle and Dana Sparks. Hinkle has long been involved in repurposing vintage objects, and many of the shelves, fixtures and other decor in the boutique reflect her work.
The children Fostering by Faith deals with are referred by various area state agencies, and some have almost no possessions when they arrive at the store. They’re given a shopping cart and have the chance to select items on their own.
“When they come in here,” Hinkle said, “they’re not going to a junk store, they’re going to an upscale shopping experience. They get the real deal, and as I’ve told some of them, it’s exclusively for them.”
“It’s like Hollister for foster kids,” Lowe said. “It’s beautiful, it’s well put together and it’s not somebody’s leftovers.
“And the look on some of the kids’ faces when they come in is priceless. And they’re like, ‘we can pick out what we want – and it’s free?’ It’s very meaningful to them.”
The clothing and other items offered at the store have all been donated by various individuals and organizations, or purchased using donated funds. All kids who come in are provided a duffel bag or backpack, and are even allowed to return once a month to obtain other things they might need.
There is even a corner equipped with select toys, games and age-appropriate books.
“It’s things that help make the kids feel like children again,” Lowe said. “A lot of these kids in foster care have had to be the adult; sometimes you’ll find the oldest one who’s only 10 taking care of the younger ones.”
The space the store occupies started out raw, but multiple companies provided materials and several people with knowledge in various fields of construction volunteered their time and labor and it was transformed into the spectacle it is now.
“It was amazing to see it come together,” Lowe said.
Fostering by Faith has served hundreds of children since the project was launched, and recently began assisting foster kids outside the 25th Circuit since no similar operation exists.
“We really want to encourage other counties and circuits to do the same thing,” Lowe said, “because it’s our communities and our children.”
Kids are typically helped by appointment (which will continue), but more volunteers are being sought to man the store so it can be open more often.
“This can be so rewarding,” Lowe said. “I almost always end up crying.”
“It’s wonderful, but it’s also gut-wrenching,” Hinkle said.
Lowe, Hinkle and Sparks all view the store and everything involved with operating it as a ministry.
“If this community is providing these kids the kind of shopping experience that rich kids get, then we know their lives are enriched,” Lowe said, “because we’ve been able to show the love of Christ to them in a tangible way. Other than spreading the gospel, there is almost nothing I do that gives me more joy.”
Fostering by Faith Boutique is not a 501c3 organization.
“We really encourage people to use their church for donations because they have that 501c3 advantage,” Lowe said. “And this is a ministry of the church – we are all the church.”
Plans are in place to offer activities for kids at the store, including jewelry making classes that will result in items for store inventory.
“We would love to have our foster kids involved,” Hinkle said. “We want to have things for them to do that will give them the chance to give back and pay it forward.”
Donations of new or very gently used clothing and other goods are always welcome. For more information, call 417-788-1600 or go online to the boutique’s Facebook page.
A grand opening event at Fostering by Faith Boutique is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 20. Everyone is encouraged to stop by and see what it’s all about.
“I always tell people that it wasn’t these kids’ choice to be in the foster system,” Hinkle said.
“But we have the choice to step up and provide what they’re not getting right now,” Lowe said. “We really want the community to own this. This is about our kids.”