RACINE — Fosters ReStore in Racine is no average thrift shop. It allows children in the foster program to shop for free. All the store proceeds go to funding this. However, continuing this program won't be as easy to do now.
On Saturday, Nov. 21, a fire burned a portion of the Fosters ReStore storage warehouse. The fire was relatively small, and the majority of the building is in good shape. However, the smoke damage is so bad, all the merchandise inside the warehouse is ruined.
“To have it all taken away has got to be one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt in my life. I still am processing it. I just still can’t - it’s hard to grasp," director and co-creator of Fosters Restore, David Fricke, said.
There are more than a hundred boxes of donations inside the warehouse. All of it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was the entire fall/winter inventory.
Fricke originally thought he would be able to throw away just some of the clothes sitting at the top of boxes or be able to clean the furniture and toys. However, once insurance agents came to assess the damage, they gave Fricke grim news.
Fosters Restore in Racine is an AMAZING shop. They let foster kids shop FOR FREE. The owner David Fricke, who was adopted, said it’s a way of giving kids control during a time when they have none. pic.twitter.com/Y8xeXVzw5H— James Groh (@JamesGroh_) November 30, 2020
"(The smoke) actually permeated all the donations, the clothing, and it makes them unsellable to the point of it's dangerous and toxic to be put in the store."
It's a huge setback for Fricke, who just recently moved all of his merchandise into this warehouse. What he has left is what's on shelves in his physical storefront.
"It is years and years' worth of work we put into this, you know. My wife and I started this in our garage just collecting clothes for foster kids."
It's not just that kids in the foster program can't get new clothes for themselves. There are greater psychological benefits to having the power of choice when so much else is out of your control.
"And most times a social worker or police officer or somebody will go in the house just scoop up some stuff throw it in a bag and bring it with (them). Or they get something out of a closet or a locker at the police station or at social services. It may not fit them. They may not like it, and now you're just making this whole experience worse," Fricke says.
So now the issue is that without inventory to sell, it becomes more difficult to support the free shopping program. All the store's profits go to funding it.
Fricke is in the process of rebuilding. He needs physical donations like clothes, toys, furniture, and everything else you can think of. Plus, he needs financial donations because insurance won't cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise that was destroyed.
Even though this is a setback, it's not going to stop Fricke from what he and his wife started back in 2008.
"We have foster kids to take care of, and that’s our mission, and that's what we are going to do."