The girls with We Cancerve transformed a dingy room at the Arrow Child and Family Ministries into a beautiful boutique to serve as a personal closet for the teen girls at the foster care group home.
La Magnifique Boutique is the latest project for the group We Cancerve, started by Grace Callwood, 11, as a way to give back to the community. The boutique is on the Arrow campus in Harford County, which provides housing and services to girls ages 16-21.
"I like to make people happy and it made me feel really happy to give to other people," said Lexi Vell, 10, who is a board member of We Cancerve.
"It makes me really happy because I feel like I'm making a difference in other people's lives," said Erin Acerno, 11, also a board member of We Cancerve.
For several weeks, the girls, their siblings and their parents spent hours after school and on the weekends painting, building shelves, and designing the space for the new boutique. They also spent hours organizing and hanging all of the donated clothes, jewelry, shoes and handbags.
"I feel very proud and excited for how the people that we're helping are going to feel when they see it," said Callwood.
The inspiration for the boutique comes from a heartbreaking story. Callwood and her mom met a former Arrow resident last year, whose name we've been asked not to use, at a line dancing party at the foster care home. Not long after the girl aged out of the system at 21, she was murdered. When Callwood heard the news, she says she was motivated to help the girls at Arrow and honor the young woman's memory. Her mom mentioned that some of the girls who attended the victim's funeral didn't have the appropriate clothing for the weather.
"It was definitely sad to know that someone who lived here with them is now not here," said Callwood. "We wanted to give them clothes that were appropriate for job interviews and things like that."
La Magnifique Boutique isn't just a room full of pretty clothes and jewelry. It gives the girls at Arrow confidence, pride and a sense of self-worth. It's changing how they look on the outside and how they feel on the inside.
"We do sometimes want that outward appearance to help the inward do better, to help our inner self feel a little stronger, a little braver," said Jennifer McGlothlin-Renault, associate vice president of Arrow. "Especially if you're sitting down for a job interview or you're meeting a new foster family."
The boutique will be officially unveiled on May 15, but a few of the girls at Arrow have already seen it and even helped with the renovations. They agree the boutique is a wonderful addition to the campus and a touching tribute to their friend who didn't get a chance to show the world what she had to offer.
"Her story was tragic but this boutique brings back her," said one of the residents. "The bright colors and fashion, it's how she was."
"We do have residents who come in here with barely any clothing," said another resident. "So knowing they can come to this beautiful boutique and pick out clothes and nice shoes and look decent, I really like it a lot."
If you would like to donate clothes and accessories to La Magnifique Boutique, reach out to We Cancerve through their website.
May is also National Foster Care Month and Arrow, like many foster care homes, is always looking for loving foster families. If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, click here or call Kim Morrill at 410-882-9133.