For families starting over, nonprofit helps make them feel at home
By Roberta Baumann
Published Jan 30, 2022
This article originally appeared on Waunakee Tribune website. View the original article here: https://www.hngnews.com/waunakee_tribune/news/local/article_ab6242e2-7faf-11ec-99ef-d36458817f1d.html
When survivors of domestic abuse leave their abuser, they seek a sanctuary for themselves and their children. Many have left all of their belongings behind as they start anew, but a new nonprofit, Felicia’s Donation Closet, is devoted to replacing them.
That nonprofit is the brainchild of Felicia Diny. The Town of Springfield woman gathers lightly used furniture, toys, kitchenware and anything else needed to help mothers and their children settle into new homes.
The seed for Felicia’s Donation Closet was planted a year and half ago when Diny moved in with her fiancé and they had duplicate furnishings. Among them was a huge sectional that she tried to sell, but eventually decided to donate to somebody in need. She remembered the Shelter From the Storm Ministries in Sun Prairie, where she had donated clothes in the past. When she called, she learned one mother who moved out had only mattresses on the floor. Diny said the mother and her three children needed everything.
“We had an extra flat-screen TV just sitting there, too. And I put out a post on Facebook, and I got like a 175 comments from people who donated,” Diny said. She collected toys and clothes, a kitchen table, bedroom sets, dressers, gift cards and gas cards and moved them into the woman’s apartment.
Diny then offered Shelter From the Storm Ministries her help in the future. A month later, another mom moved out, and Diny found furniture for her, as well.
“It just started from there. I realized I should make this a nonprofit and make this legit,” Diny said.
Felicia’s Donation Closet has a board of directors, including Diny’s fiancé, Ryan Olson, herself and four others. A year and a half after its inception, Felicia’s Donation Closet has a storage unit to house the donated furnishing and toys, and a fundraising campaign is underway to purchase a truck. With the current storage unit full, Diny said the hope is to expand to two more units.
As a survivor of domestic abuse, Diny envisions the nonprofit as a way to help others overcome past trauma and begin a new life, as she has done. She works with Gynel Orr of Shelter From the Storm Ministries, who informs her when a family will leave the shelter and into a home. Then Diny reaches out to the woman to learn the family’s personal tastes and décor preferences.
“I figure out what their favorite colors are, what their style is, what their kids’ sizes are, what are they into,” Diny said. “It’s kind of like a short bio of you and your family, so that way, when I’m picking out home décor or a couch, I personalize a lot of stuff.”
Diny said the furnishing is not a “hand out. It’s a hand up.”
The board and volunteers collect and gather the goods and load them into storage. When called upon, they move them into families’ homes.
Felicia’s Donation Closet has become a second career for Diny, a former fashion model who now operates Olson Concrete with her fiancé. She and the board of directors are looking for more volunteers, particularly those who excel at social media and are strong enough to move couches, mattresses and other heavy furniture.
For the women served, their work is life-changing. One woman shared her experience in a podcast about the organization, saying Diny “wanted make sure we had everything that makes a house a home,” and provided so much more than just a bed.
“These things seem so small until you don’t have them,” she said.
Diny said she has learned one lesson along the way: She no longer accepts donations of large sectionals as they don’t fit into most apartments. She is also particular about what donations she accepts, and rejects any furniture with stains.
Felicia’s Donation Closet holds fundraisers throughout the year and is currently just $3,000 shy of the goal set for the purchase of a truck. The next one is a Casino Night set for May 21 at Bonfyre. For information about the nonprofit and to get involved, visit feliciasdonationcloset.com.