Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Often, extenuating circumstances prompt individuals to action. When Steve and Patty Raby went to pick up their first foster child late one evening in 2009, she was in a nightgown. Kaylee had no clothes, toiletries, personal items, or toys. Nothing. It was late, and the Rabys – who had two sons at home at the time – had nothing to offer the young girl but a bed, food, and security. The next day, they went out to purchase necessities. The couple said the experience opened their eyes to the needs of children involved in emergency placements.
“We had no idea until this happened,” said Steve.
Starting in the fall 2018, when a new building was constructed for the couple’s Heritage Garage Doors business on Highlands Road, they planned for additional space to be set aside to house clothes and other essentials for children in need. Called Kaylee’s Closet, to honor their first foster child, the second-floor, 22 by 20-foot room is a storehouse for new and gently used clothes, furniture, toys, stuffed animals, backpacks, shoes, and much more. New diapers, bottles, and undergarments are also purchased with donated proceeds. Donated car seats’ expiration date and overall condition is carefully checked before car seats are offered to families for children, explained Patty.
Steve equips the Kaylee’s Closet space with shelving and hanging racks, and Patty washes all items, organizes by size and season, and neatly stacks, hangs, and arranges. “We’re completely together on this,” said Patty. “Steve’s so good about going out and getting what we need for the Closet when we’re lacking something.”
When a need call comes in, Patty gathers information about size, gender, etc. She then chooses necessary items, including several changes of clothing, shoes, socks, undergarments, and warm outerwear, if appropriate for the season.
“I always make sure to include a stuffed animal,” she says. “Every child needs a stuffed animal.”
Although Kaylee’s Closet was established with foster children in mind, the Rabys have had several calls from grandparents who suddenly learn they will be taking care of a grandchild or grandchildren and have nothing for them. A young first-time mother also reached out to the Rabys for assistance.
“Kaylee’s Closet is mostly to get a family started,” said Patty, “but we will help in any way we can.”
Since the fall, Kaylee’s Closet has helped 11 Macon County families.
The Rabys get the word out about Kaylee’s Closet through emails to Macon County Department of Social Services, through Facebook, and by word of mouth. Congregants at South Macon Baptist Church, where the couple attends, as well as friends and family, help periodically with Kaylee’s Closet by volunteering and donating. The Rabys were given a washer and dryer to keep on the premises of Heritage Garage Doors so that all donated items can be cleaned on site.
Kaylee’s Closet is receiving so many donated items weekly that the 28 by 20-foot staging/organization area just outside the Closet room will soon be equipped with shelving and racks to house more items.
“This has really become like a full-time job,” said Patty. “It’s time consuming, but so worth it.”
The process is under way for Kaylee’s Closet to become a 501c3 non-profit so that receipts can be offered for donated items. Plus, the Rabys are establishing a Facebook page for Kaylee’s Closet. Currently, they ask that anyone interested in donating items – or in need of essentials due to an emergency placement situation – should call them at (828)371-0992.