MENOMINEE, Mich. (WJMN) – Menominee County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogg started Thursday with a beard and ended it with a clean shave and thousands of dollars for a non-profit that means a lot to him.
“This organization is really near and dear to my heart,” said Rogg. “As the prosecuting attorney in Menominee, I deal with these constituents, the same constituents as the Foster Closet who are children placed in non-parental foster care. That could be relatives, often times it’s strangers. When the kids are placed in foster care, often they are removed from their home with just the clothes on their back. Or if they’re lucky, a garbage bag with a couple of items like a stuffed animal.”
The Menominee Foster Closet is one of five in the Upper Peninsula. The others are in Delta, Dickinson, Iron, and Marquette Counties. MFC covers Menominee County as well as neighboring Marinette, Wisconsin, and as of the last couple of months, Oconto County, Wisconsin as well.
The U.P. Foster Closet of Menominee County serves families who are caring for children who are not their biological children. This can be grandparents caring for their grandchildren, aunts and uncles caring for their nieces/nephews, foster children through the MI and WI court systems, adoptions, delegation of parental authorities, etc. They provide new and like-new clothing items in addition to diapers, wipes, cribs, and other essential needs for the children and their caring family.
“In probate court, we have abuse and neglect cases where we have these same types of people. They may not be the exact same folks but they are in the same circumstance. Those are typically the most vulnerable citizens in our community, the kids. They are really important to the mission of my office.”
The Foster Closet was started as a partnership by Cassie Lauren and Billie Kimmell.
“Whatever the family needs we’ll get,” said Lauren. “It might take a couple days. Like this bed for instance. I met with this family two days ago. This is the first bed we’ve ever purchased, so part of it is finding out who in Menominee sells beds. Then I had to make an appointment because they are by appointment only right now. So today was the day I actually got in there and go everything squared away.”
The Foster Closet opened on August 4, 2020. Since then, here is a breakdown of the people and famlies they have helped throughout, Menominee, Marinette, and Oconto Counties.
- Marinette/Menominee Families Served: 89
- Marinette Youth Served: 43
- Menominee Youth Served: 91
- Oconto Youth Served: 2
- Total Children: 136
- First Time Families: 59
- Repeat Families: 12
- Supplies Provided: 2706. These supplies include items such as Gift Cards, ranging from 20-150, bigger items such as car seats, strollers, highchairs, cribs, beds, and clothing, perishable items such as baby formula, not covered under WIC and baby furniture.
“We do truly want the families to come in a shop for themselves if they are able to, just because it gives the kids a little sense of being able to pick out what they want to wear,” added Lauren. “It’s their time to be in there and look at everything we have and get to experience that. Whatever you want in there, it’s yours.
Back to the Beard
Rogg’s intial goal was to raise $1,000. After just three days, they had to raise the bar again to $2,500. When we spoke to Rogg earlier on Thursday, the total funds raised topped $3,995. All of it going to Menominee Foster Closet.
“It’s just incredible. This is such a giving community. I’ve been here six years. I moved up from lower Michigan. I love i here, and the best thing about it. Not only Menominee, but our friends in Marinette and in Oconto are just the wonderful people that live here.”
Rogg said he typically grows a beard for winter, but during COVID, he decided to let it grow. For the last 8 months, he’s been cultivating the facial follicles. Then came the idea to turn something fun into a fundraiser.
Here is a link to the donation page.
Rogg said he doesn’t think he’ll miss the beard. “I find it hard to eat some of my favorite foods. I love ice cream. There’s nothing better in July than an ice cream cone. As I was attempting to eat one last week I made a complete mess of my face. The only person that was happy about that was my Labrador Retriever.”
At the heart of this event, Rogg said, it’s about providing a sense of normalcy and stability to the youth.
“I think one of the most important things is the self-esteem of the teenagers in particular. The closet serves those all the way up to 17 or 18. Teenagers are at an awkward age and they might need that hot new pair of tennis shoes or that special jeans or t-shirt or something like that. The Foster Care Closet. If they don’t have it in stock, they can work with the family to purchase it directly.” Rogg continued, “It can help them feel that self-esteem in an adverse situation.”