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East County nonprofit provides clothes, connections to foster children

In July 2023, Program Coordinator Lindsey May holds a pair of sneakers that were donated during the summer sneaker drive.
In July 2023, Program Coordinator Lindsey May holds a pair of sneakers that were donated during the summer sneaker drive.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Kim and Alex Peralta have fostered 35 children over the past six years. 

The Bradenton couple, who are both 41 years old, have four biological children and four adopted children. The children’s ages range from 19 months to 19 years old. 

Support from The Twig, which stands for The Way to Inspire and Give, makes it all a little less daunting for the family. 

“Knowing that they’re walking alongside us and the four kids that we’ve adopted is amazing,” Kim Peralta said. “It definitely makes it easier. Even for fostering, it makes it easier for us to say “yes” because we know we’re not doing it all alone.”

The Peraltas now bring the kids to The Twig on State Road 64, but before that location opened in 2021, they used to drive to Venice, where the original store is located. 

The Twig is a nonprofit set up like a retail clothing store where children in foster care can shop for free. 

Ellie Peralta is 4 years old. She was placed with the Peraltas as an infant straight out of the neonatal intensive care unit and has since been adopted by the family.

“Ellie is a little girl who loves everything pink and ‘Frozen,’ so she’ll go through looking and whatever she finds, she always comes out with such a huge smile on her face,” Kim Peralta said. “She’s always greeted by Lindsay (the program coordinator). Lindsay knows all of our kids by name, so it’s like an extended family.”

While The Twig was designed for children in foster care, those who are adopted remain eligible for services. Children who age out of foster care are also eligible to shop until they’re 21 years old if enrolled in Twig Connects. 

The Twig is a nonprofit set up like a retail store where children in foster care can shop for free once a month.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Twig Connects is a program held on-site once a month. The kids are fed a meal while learning life skills like how to create a budget or file taxes. 

“We serve around 400 children every single month between both of our locations,” Director of Development Nicole Britton said. “We’ve opened up some more shopping days to be able to serve this many kids. The first three Saturdays of every month, we’re open in both of our locations, and the foster families don’t have to make appointments.”

The Twig also offers shopping appointments on Wednesday for kids who struggle with crowds or have been placed with a new family early in the week, so that they don’t have to wait until Saturday. 

The kids can shop once a month. Each child leaves with about 10 items, which typically include underwear, socks, accessories, a couple of outfits, a pair of shoes and a book. 

About 4,000 items are given away each month, and most of the items are donated by community members. The Twig applies for grants and holds fundraisers, but Britton said the nonprofit has a lot of extremely committed monthly donors. 

“We have people who will shop off of our wishlist that’s on our website and have things sent straight to us, and we have people that just love to go out shopping,” she said. “Not everybody can be a foster parent, but everybody can do something. So for some people, buying sneakers or pajamas is their something.” 

The Twig operates with the help of about 100 volunteers, but Britton said they’re looking for more. Volunteering opportunities include helping out on shopping days and sorting the donations. 

Donations can be made on the second Tuesday of every month from 4-6 p.m. The Twig also accepts hand-me-downs, but the condition must be like new. 

While The Twig offers a steady connection for these children and their foster families outside of the material items, Britton said the shopping goes a long way to make them feel valued and seen. A faded top with stains on it isn’t going to have that same effect.

“We do a sneaker drive over the summer to make sure that we have all kinds of sneakers before school starts,” Britton said. “There was a teen girl who put on a pair of Nikes, and then she sat down on the floor and cried because she said, ‘I never thought I’d have a pair of shoes like this.’”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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