September 19, 2017

How four siblings launched a nonprofit that serves foster kids in their community

Sisters who grew up in the foster care system inspired their new family to join them in helping kids in the Quad Cities

Meet the Haskills: Sixteen-year-old twins Amy, left, and Amber, right, and their brothers, 17-year-old Logan, center left, and 15-year-old Liam, founded the nonprofit QC Closet2Closet to help kids who have experience with homelessness and foster care look their best. Photo courtesy of the Haskill family

Managing the social minefield that is high school is hard enough without having to think about your wardrobe. For students who don’t have a permanent home—who are either homeless or in the foster care system—the comfort and confidence that comes with having just the right outfit to wear may be out of reach.

Sisters Amy and Amber Haskill understand this. The 16-year-old twins grew up in the foster care system and moved around often, at times apart from each other, until being adopted by the Haskill family in Rock Island, Illinois. That experience 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.

Since its founding in 2014, QC 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.

This summer the Haskills participated in The Allstate Foundation’s Good Starts Young Rally in Chicago, and were awarded a $10,000 grant to continue to grow their positive impact in the community. (The Renewal Project is made possible by Allstate.)

We spoke to Amy, Amber, and Logan, who represented their family at the July rally. Amy and Amber are juniors at Rock Island High School, and Logan is a freshman at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Here’s what they told us about the inspiration for launching Closet2Closet, and what motivates them to serve their community. And for more, follow the young changemakers on Twitter at @qcCLoset2Closet.

What inspired you to do this work?

AMBER: We started QC Closet2Closet about four years ago because of my biological family’s experience in the foster care system. When my twin, Amy, and I were about 6, we were put into the system along with our four older siblings. What we experienced while in foster care made me want to contribute back to the system because we know some of the struggles first-hand that can happen when kids move unexpectedly.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

AMY: We bring a lot of awareness to difficulties faced by the children we work with. My sister and I learned when we were foster kids that sometimes when kids have to move frequently, they may lose their belongings. When all you have is the clothes on your back, it can make joining a new family and a new school very difficult. This can hurt kids’ self confidence. We try to help this by letting them pick out their own clothes whenever they need it.

When all you have is the clothes on your back, it can make joining a new family and a new school very difficult. — Amy Haskill

LOGAN: Not only are we personally helping our population of foster teenagers in the community by providing them with confidence and a sense of community though clothes, but we also speak publicly and raise awareness about the issues surrounding foster teenagers. Over the years, we built up enough inventory to start reaching out to homeless youth, another group that, like foster children, have major disruptions in their lives that may lead to them not being able to build a wardrobe.

Amber and Liam gather donations for their nonprofit QC Closet2Closet. Photo courtesy of the Haskill family

What do you love about your community?

LOGAN: How close everyone is. We have many organizations within the Quad Cities that really make an impact for those who are in need, and everyone cares about one another. Leaders of other area nonprofits have been very helpful mentoring our family to make QC Closet2Closet the best it can be.

AMBER: I love that my community supports this organization and works with my family and me on raising awareness about and helping older foster and homeless youth. My adoptive parents lived in a community that was in a different part of the state from where I grew up, so when I met them, I found a new family, and also a new town. I love that when I moved to my community almost six years ago, I was accepted as a real member of my new family. That gave me the confidence to share my story and experience, which was something that I was not able to do before.

AMY: I love that our community has supported our project from the start. Our first clothing drive brought in 2,000 clothing items and we continue to get donations from teens just like us every week. It makes me feel blessed to live in a supportive community that comes together to help people they’ve never even met. It means a lot.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

AMY: I want people to know that my community is awesome. They care a lot about people they don’t know. We have people who’ve never met us, but have heard about our organization and they take time out of their day to help us support the cause we care about. Entire groups volunteer to help, even if they’ve never even met someone who is a foster child. I like that they want to learn about a group they may never have met before.

AMBER: My community is super supportive. When I was in 7th grade, I had a little idea to have a clothing drive for foster kids and I hoped that maybe I’d collect enough to give some nicer clothes to my older siblings. What ended up happening was that we instead received a ton of interest and over 2,000 items! My classmates, friends, and hundreds of people I had never even met before over the past four years have supported my family and the organization we founded by volunteering their time, donating money and clothes, and pushing us to do new and bigger things to make an even bigger impact. Last year, we served over 1,000 children. The support of my community taught me never to give up on my dreams. Maybe some of the kids who get clothing help from us can feel the same type of support and have the confidence to chase their dreams, too.

LOGAN: How diverse and wonderful Rock Island really is. I personally believe that there is no other community of that size with so many amazing people with such different backgrounds.

What leader or leaders inspired you and why?

AMY: I am inspired by some of my teachers and my parents. My teachers, especially Ms. Johnson and Mrs. Randolph, inspire me because they see the potential in me and want me to do great. My coaches have always lifted me up, even when I haven’t been at my best, and motivate me to try harder. What has inspired me to keep working with QC Closet2Closet is my brothers and sisters who have lived for a long time in foster care and for foster children I’ve met through work with Closet2Closet who are scared and don’t always know what will happen in their future.

LOGAN: Chance the Rapper. He shows that young people can get involved in their community. He’s a successful musician, and he’s extremely politically active. He’s spoken with Illinois lawmakers, and even walked concert-goers to the polls. We need more young leaders that will help give young people a voice, and prevent voter apathy.

AMBER: My parents inspired me because I never really had people in my life before I met them who encouraged me to be the best me and not to just dream, but to make my dreams happen. They took me seriously when I told them that I wanted to give back to foster kids. When I first had the idea for QC Closet2Closet, it sounded crazy because it didn’t quite make sense at first, but because I really wanted to do something, they helped me make a plan to grow the organization.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.