August 3, 2017
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Sisters who grew up in foster care give kids like them clothes and confidence

An Illinois organization that provides free clothing for foster care and homeless youth wins $10,000 grant from The Allstate Foundation

Sixteen-year-old twins Amy and Amber Haskill, and their brother, 17-year-old Logan Haskill, won a $10,000 grant at The Allstate Foundation's Good Starts Young Rally recently in Chicago. The siblings run a nonprofit that provides provides clothing for foster care and homeless youth. Photo courtesy of The Allstate Foundation

Amy and Amber Haskill understand all too well the struggle to “fit in,” especially as teenagers. The 16-year-old twin sisters grew up in the foster care system, at times separated from each other, until being adopted by the Haskill family in Rock Island, Illinois. “My sister and I moved around a lot as foster kids and we often didn’t have time to pack up our stuff,” Amber Haskill said. “It made me feel abandoned. I lacked confidence and felt like I wasn’t worth the belongings I had.”

That hardship led the girls, along with their brothers, 17-year-old Logan and 15-year-old Liam, to found the nonprofit QC Closet2Closet, which collects and distributes clothing, accessories, and hygiene items to children and teenagers who are in foster care or who are homeless.

The Haskills recently were awarded a $10,000 grant at The Allstate Foundation’s Good Starts Young Rally to continue to grow their positive impact in the community. Closet2Closet was one of 10 finalists that participated in the event, part of The Allstate Foundation’s Good Starts Young initiative, which aims to increase academic performance, improve college and workplace readiness, and empower youth to make meaningful contributions to society, according to a press release from Allstate. (The Renewal Project is made possible by Allstate.)

Hosted by The Allstate Foundation and Peace First, an international nonprofit that prepares young people for leadership, the three-day Chicago event took place in July, welcomed young changemakers who are working to solve issues in their communities. The teams were paired with mentors and subject matter experts who helped the young people shape their ideas. Each of the nine runners-up finishing after the Haskills received a $2,000 grant to get their ideas off the ground.

“Young people have the passion and vision to make a positive difference in society, and as adults, we need to listen to them and encourage them to keep reaching for the stars,” said Vicky Dinges, Allstate’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility. “Forums like the Good Starts Young Rally provide a valuable opportunity for young people to express themselves, collaborate with others and build up their confidence.”

For Amber Haskill, helping her peers seek their own confidence is a large driver of her commitment to Closet2Closet. “Appearance matters–it shows your personality. When you don’t have the right clothes or you’re wearing really old clothes, it has an effect on how you feel about yourself,” she said.

Since its founding in 2014, Closet2Closet has provided clothing and other items to more than 1,000 young people in the Quad Cities area along the Illinois-Iowa border. With help from local volunteers, the siblings have delivered over 2,000 care packages full of clothing, socks and underwear, and toiletries.

“Young people are powerful peacemakers, with ideas on how to solve our most pressing problems, right now,” said Eric Dawson, CEO and co-founder of Peace First. “All 10 of these youth teams are dedicated to making a difference and that was evident through their demonstrated courage, compassion and collaboration.”

Learn more about Closet2Closet’s winning project, as well as all the finalist teams’ creative solutions to social problems at www.goodstartsyoungrally.com.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.