As a child, Linda Grabowski learned about giving. Her mother, Miriam had an upscale children’s boutique. Unique Kids was in North Charleston, SC.
“Many times I’d see mothers with small children come into the store and look at the sales racks,” Linda said. “Mom would quietly go around the store and gather items from racks and hand the mother a bag full of clothes. ‘Here,’ she’d say. ‘I thought you would like these things.’”
So when, as an elementary school teacher, Linda saw children without proper clothing or shoes, she knew she had to help.
From an inclination to a calling, Linda’s part in God’s plan to reach His little ones grew.
In March of 2011, Linda and her husband, David started Miriam’s Basket, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization serving Clay County, Florida.
“When I decided to start this ministry, I knew it had to have Mom’s name on it.”
The mission of Miriam’s Basket is to provide clothes and shoes to children in crisis who have been victims of abuse, neglect, or personal tragedy.
The Grabowskis collected new and gently used clothing and shoes, and new socks and underwear for kids. As the donations increased, their house seemed to shrink.
From their home to a donated unit in a climate-controlled storage facility, Miriam’s Basket expanded. In less than two years, they outgrew the donated unit and rented a few more.
Linda saw a vacant suite in a business plaza and called to inquire. As God would have it, the right person answered the phone and soon the Basket moved into the larger space at a reduced rent.
They recently moved again into a larger facility. Once more, the Lord touched the owner’s heart.
John and Sharon Holston, Wanda Wagner, and Norma Layton have helped the charity immensely with countless hours of volunteer work.
Receiving no government money, they depend on God and His people to help them meet their monthly responsibilities—and He never disappoints.
At the Celebrate Clay awards banquet in 2016, Miriam’s Basket won the Reinhold Foundation Best New Organization Award “for recognizing and fulfilling an unmet need in the community . . .” The distinction came with a grant.
“People and businesses have fundraisers and donate a portion of their sales to Miriam’s Basket,” Linda said. “Some offices do a Friday Jean Day where employees pay $5 to be able to wear jeans. They donate that money to us.”
Their mission statement reflects Matthew 25 in the Bible. Jesus said to care for those in need and by doing so, we show love to God. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40b NIV).
Linda has had the opportunity to share that mission with people in Rotary clubs, churches and church groups, sororities, American Heritage Girls meetings, businesses, and different women’s groups.
“People want to learn more about what we do here.”
Linda gets referrals from the various child protection service agencies of Clay County. The children she helps are typically being removed from unsafe homes and don’t have adequate clothing available. She gets the information, prepares the items, and an agency representative retrieves the bags.
Each child gets five complete outfits, pajamas, new shoes, five pair of new underwear and new socks, and a little something extra that is age appropriate. If it’s wintertime, each child also gets a warm coat. Infants get baby blankets, diapers, bibs, etc. Additionally, older girls get accessories and older boys and girls get a journal and pen. Each child gets these items in a gift bag—never a garbage bag.
“These children have had to settle with what’s been handed to them in life; they have no control. They shouldn’t have to settle for less than the best. They should feel good about themselves.”
While the Grabowskis and their volunteers don’t meet the children they help, they get reports from caseworkers.
“One little girl, four years old, only had her brothers’ hand-me-downs. She got pink, purple, frilly, ruffley clothes from Miriam’s Basket!” Linda said.
“I learned that when a seven-year-old boy was given the bag of clothes, his caseworker said to try them on. She said he came out wearing all five pair of his new underwear, and nothing else. She told him she wanted to see his outfits. He had never had new underwear before and said he didn’t want to cover them up!
“I don’t get to meet the kids, so I constantly pray while I’m shopping for one of them or gathering stuff from here at the Basket. I ask the Lord to help me choose what they’ll like. I don’t know what they look like—their hair color or the shape of their bodies. I only know their sizes.”
According to a recent report, God answers Linda’s prayers. A counselor said that a teenage girl who received clothes from Miriam’s Basket, was extremely excited with her items. She’d never had new shoes before and only had clothes from others. Everything from the Basket fit and she felt loved.
“We pray over each piece of clothing. We pray for God’s protection, peace and no emotional scars; that the child will know the Lord at an early age and they will be loved the way they’re supposed to be.”
When children come from meth lab homes, they cannot have their own clothes. Everything in the home is toxic. They are undressed immediately and put in hospital gowns in the police cars. They have literally nothing.
The needs among Clay County children are rising. The first bag of clothes was given in December of 2011. 2012 saw 82 children receive bags. That number has grown each year. In 2016, 399 children received bags of clothes. As of March 2017, over 1,600 children have been helped by Miriam’s Basket.
The youngest child who received a bag of clothes wasn’t yet born. So from newborn through age 19, Clay County kids in crisis are being blessed through this ministry.
“We need clothing from newborn through adult 2X. We’re pretty picky. We want the clothes to look new and we need clothes in season. We appreciate monthly supporters and no amount is too little. Because we buy new shoes, underwear, and socks, we also need Wal-Mart gift cards.”
Linda suggests people call her before donating clothes to learn what is most needed at that time. Because the Miriam’s Basket facility is a work space and isn’t open to the public, please call to set up a time to donate and tour the facility.
The charity’s seventh annual fundraiser, “Doing a Good Thing” Dinner and Silent Auction, will be on October 7, 2017. The location is yet to be determined.
For more information, visit the Miriam’s Basket website, www.MiriamsBasket.org or their Facebook page. Check them out to learn how you can be a “Basketeer” and monthly bless the children of Clay County, FL. Linda Grabowski can be reached at 904.477.1975.