WAUKESHA, Wis. — Amalie Bowling discovered she was pregnant shortly after she adopted four siblings.
"It was a little bit of an instant family," she says with a laugh. "When I think back, I realize how crazy it is, but when I'm living it, it's not as crazy."
Bowling is Vice President of Chosen, a nonprofit she helped found. Her mother Karen Schlindwein is on the board. They run a quaint clothing shop in West Allis called "The Family Closet." It’s a place where parents of adoptive and foster kids — who may be financially strapped — can shop for children's clothes for free.
More than 1,000 children have received items from Chosen.
"I want them to feel like they're walking into something special," says Bowling. "I consider anyone who walks through the doors my family because they hold a special place in my heart. Because of my parents and their support, they've given me the blessing in understanding what a family looks like. That has been tremendous in my life."
Shopping is by appointment only. Parents can find stylish clothes for kids of all ages. The items are new and gently used.
"I want them to feel like they're a part of the family when they come in," Bowling says. "I have five kids of my own, so a lot of times I ask their input. I say, do you think this is cool?"
The charitable company is a perfect fit for Bowling, who herself is adopted.
"A lot of people have a lot of hurt and a lot of pain with being adopted. A lot of families don't know how to overcome that," says Schlindwein. "For us it was a matter of teaching our kids they were chosen twice, once by us and once by God."
In addition to kid's clothes, Chosen also offers guidance and emotional support. Bowling admits she could not do this without help.
"We have special volunteers that come out and help us each week. They are my bread and butter and my backbone," she says. "If I didn't have my volunteers, I wouldn't be able to do it, so I'm so I'm so grateful to them."
Mom and daughter say openness is an important part of the adoption process.
"Don't let it be a secret. It's part of their story being adopted. Let them explore what that means."
Both believe the deep joy of adopting and fostering children is undeniable.
"The rewards far outweigh the hurt. To know that you've been part of that child's journey for a little bit or forever is priceless," Schlindwein says.
And through this nonprofit, mother and daughter bond, find their purpose, and stay true to their faith.
"I have been blessed to have all kinds of circumstances with adoption and in our own family. I just want to show God's love with that. That's what I think my purpose is," Schlindwien says.
"I would say my purpose is to share God's love and allow people to feel what it's like to be chosen, to love big," Bowling adds.