Hermiston family looks to expand foster children donation station

HERMISTON, Ore. – Jessie Miller still remembers September of 2019. They had just become certified foster parents that day when the state called, in need of their help.

“Your heart stops, it hits the floor, and you’re like ‘oh,'” she said.

The Millers, who have two biological children, had been looking into expanding their family, when they learned about becoming foster parents.

That day, they became caregivers for a newborn. Jessie said she watched the baby girl in the NICU for a week before she could return home with them. The Millers gave her an online alias to protect her identity: Sweet Potato.

Months later, in May of 2020, the Millers welcomed a teen into their home.

“But she came with nothing and her birthday was coming up pretty quick,” Jessie recalled.

The couple spend around $1,000 between clothes, toiletries, decorations; anything to offer the teen some normalcy.

“It was just not sustainable to spend that much money on every kid that comes through the house,” she said.

While they are paid to be foster parents, Jessie said costs can add up quickly for any foster family.

“You can’t just let a kid not have what they need,” she said.

So, the 27-year-old put out an idea on social media: to open a storage unit, filled with donated items for babies, children and teens in foster care. Jessie named it Sweet Potato’s Closet after their first foster child.

“To be able to coordinate the community in a way that we can help these kids, it is the absolute best,” Jessie explained.

So far, community members have paid for most of the costs of the two, large storage units they use.

“We kind of just expected it to be that little unit and it would help five kids a month and we’re up to like 60 kids a month,” Jessie said.

With two units and a giving community, Jessie said they’re running out of room. She hopes to find a building where foster parents or children can pick out new or gently used items.

“We need a building with a washer and a dryer, plus electricity, because right now, if somebody needs something at night, I’m out there with a flashlight, trying not to trip on something,” Jessie said foster parents can get requests at all times of the day.

Since they got certified, the Millers have fostered six children and given respite care to many others. Jessie said the ups, downs and work to operate Sweet Potato’s Closet is fulfilling.

“It is so rewarding, it’s totally worth it, the kids are amazing, the kids are definitely the best part,” she said.

If you’d like to donate to the closet, visit their Facebook or donation link here.