These local small business owners, and hairstylists, decided to give back this holiday season to the foster-care community after being touched by stories of foster care from people in their own lives.
Through a social media donation campaign, Lindsey Cooksey and Natalie Pirtle, owners of Bombshell Studios and Live 'N Dye hair salon in downtown Detroit Lakes, raised $5,050 for foster children in the lakes-area.
The two owners teamed up with North Home Children and Family Services, White Earth Foster Care and Becker County Human Services to split the donations among as many foster children as possible.
"Natalie had a client, and I had a client, and they were telling us that teen fosters are almost 90% of the time, forgotten about," said Cooksey. "And, that was shocking to us."
Pirtle said there are already many toy drives for the younger kids and not as many opportunities for older kids, which is why they decided to focus their donation effort on helping older fosters.
Chris Kaml, a foster care case manager for North Home Children and Family Services, said the whole campaign started with a Facebook message about wanting to do a fundraiser and snowballed into more than $5,000 about a month later.
"We're going to spread it out as much as we can," said Kaml. "It's just amazing how this community came together."
He said the donations will "mean a lot to a lot of kids." Kaml also said the lakes area is in need of more foster families and to check the organizations website with how to start the fostering process.
"We are just overwhelmed, and so excited," he said. "People don't even know who these children are, and are willing, and able, to donate. This is just amazing and we are so grateful."
Natalie Pirtle also said her husband spent most of his teenage years in foster care.
"He told me, for them, everything was always tight," said Pirtle. "He had some really great foster families and they gave him what he needed, but it's just that little extra stuff in teenagers, and they always want super expensive things, so they don't want Barbie dolls anymore, they want iPads."
Cooksey said her father was adopted and her mother-in-law, with her seven siblings, were all in the California foster care program. She said the conditions her mother-in-law described about her foster care experiences were abhorrent.
"Most of us have all felt love in our lives at some time, so I could never imagine being passed around and never feeling that unconditional love," said Cooksey.
Cooksey said the response from their social media push was overwhelming. While she would mention the donation drive in her social media posts, Pirtle put together statistics to bolster their drive. Cooksey said people were messaging her and coming into the shop to drop off $250 checks.
Even owners of La Burista and Hub 41, two Detroit Lakes businesses who have been affected by the ongoing pandemic, decided to donate to the foster care cause.
"It was beyond amazing, we had a gym owner come in and dropped off $250, and they aren't even open," said Pirtle.
Both women decided to continue the foster care drive next holiday season as well and will look for new ways to bring in more donations so they can continue to have a positive affect in the lives of local teenage foster kids.