CARBONDALE — Christine O’Dell knows how difficult it can be for a foster family to get the things they need to care for a child who is placed in their home.
Families get a call asking them to care for a child and often have 24 hours to respond. If they accept a child, they have to be ready for the child at the end of that time period. O’Dell said older children may come with their belongings in a trash bag, but babies go from the hospital to the foster family with half a bag of diapers and the formula started at the hospital.
“This started as (Christine's husband) Les and I having a desire to help take care of foster families by having a means to help them get the things they need,” O’Dell said.
The couple was at church when they got a call asking them to become foster parents to a baby boy. After a short family discussion, they accepted the baby into their family in a return phone call. Their church family prayed for all of them, then they left church and headed to Walmart, where they bought about $200 of baby supplies.
That baby, along with two other foster children, was adopted by the family, and Christine refers to them as “our three little blessings.”
“With a traditional childbirth, you have months to prepare. When we foster a child, you may have 24 hours,” O’Dell said. “It can cost several hundred dollars, and that’s what we’re trying to alleviate.”
A friend suggested opening a thrift shop to help fund their mission of helping foster families. O’Dell did some research and found the closest children’s thrift shop is in Cape Girardeau.
Two Bugs and a Bean Children’s Resale Boutique opened in December 2018, along with the Foster Family Resource Center of Southern Illinois, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping foster families.
In their first year of operation, they have helped 60 foster families with items they needed.
“We work with agencies in the area to spread the word to foster families,” O’Dell said.
Two Bugs and a Bean specializes in clothing for children from preemie size through teen sizes. O’Dell said they always have more little sizes and less clothing for teens. The shop also has baby gear, shoes and toys. Currently, they are hosting a book fair to earn books for foster families.
“Most of our customers are thrilled to have a place to buy nice children’s clothing at a reasonable price,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell said foster children don’t come with many possessions, so they try to give each one a book and a toy to call their own. O’Dell also likes to give children a flashlight or night light, since they are going to a strange place to live.
O’Dell does not turn down any donation, but she is picky about what the boutique resells. Clothing must be clean and in good shape, no tears or missing buttons. She believes that foster children deserve the same quality as every other child.
“I am very passionate about helping children feel like they belong wherever they are,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell loves getting to know more of the community through the shop and helping foster families.
Everything at the shop goes to the Foster Family Resource Center. O’Dell does not take a salary for her work. The boutique has one paid employee.
“We’re hoping as we grow and expand, we can help with more than physical needs. We want to help recruit foster families, help agencies with their own needs,” O’Dell said.
Two Bugs and a Bean is located in Murdale Shopping Center in Carbondale, just west of Neighborhood Coop. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The boutique is closed Sunday.
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