Not to downplay Christine O'Dell's enthusiasm for her storefront operation, but she is more excited about what happens in the back room.
In a few weeks since opening in Carbondale, response to the Two Bugs and a Bean Children's Resale Boutique -- the front space -- has exceeded her expectations. She is thrilled with the number of people visiting the shop and the wide range of what she calls "gently-loved" clothing, shoes and baby accessories offered for resale in the store located in the Murdale Shopping Center.
But back behind the retail space of Two Bugs and a Bean is a storeroom of sorts, filled with an even wider range of inventory. This area, lined with shelves, contains everything from clothing and toys to diapers and bedding, towels and hygiene products to backpacks and school supplies.
Most of it is brand new, but none of it is for sale; it all is designated to be given away -- to foster parents.
This is the room that O'Dell is so excited about: the Foster Family Resource Center of Southern Illinois, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to "stand in the gap" for new foster parents.
"Often foster parents will get a call about a child who will be placed with them in as few as 24 hours," she explains, "and while most foster families have some of the necessary items to care and raise a child, very few have everything they need, so often they have to buy everything themselves."
To help, the organization will provide items including diapers, bedding, clothing and more to new foster families completely free of charge.
O'Dell says the materials will supplement materials provided by social service agencies.
"We will be working with all of the fostering agencies and foster parents throughout the region," she explains. "All families have to do is bring in their placement paperwork or reach out through their caseworker and we will help them with some of the things they need."
O'Dell says the resource center will be funded by donations from foundations, area companies, and organizations and individuals, as well as by proceeds of the Two Bugs and a Bean resale shop.
O'Dell adds that Two Bugs and a Bean -- the name comes from her nicknames for her two sons adopted through foster care and one current foster son she will soon adopt -- has allowed her to share her own story about fostering.
"My husband and I realized we were nearing the end of our journey as foster parents and we wanted to find a way to still be involved and to still help foster children in our area" she explains. "If we can help one child or encourage one more family to begin fostering, then we have fulfilled our mission."