The Foster Care Closet, which provides used clothing and equipment free to foster parents, is moving into a larger space to accommodate its growing business.

The new location on the back side of the Bottlers Building at 25th and Randolph streets is near the previous closet site.

The new outlet looks much more like a store, with a dressing room for children to try on the clothes,  thanks to Gateway Westfield mall donations of  fixtures from Steve & Barry's.

The closet  served more than 400 children with more than 5,200 items during the first five months of 2009, an almost 50 percent increase over last year, according to Leigh Esau, a volunteer who started and runs the service.

The closet will hold an open house Saturday evening from 6 to 8 for parents attending foster care training in Lincoln on Sunday, Esau said.

Esau began the volunteer project in 2006 after she and her husband had to round up clothing for three foster children who arrived at their house with only the clothes they were wearing.

The state generally provides a $200 clothing allowance for foster children,   but that is for the entire time a child is in foster care, Esau said. 

She said she hopes the closet will be able to expand into Omaha next year, where, she said, the need "is just incredible." 

The closet gave out 2,700 items to 253 Omaha area children during a recent two-day visit as volunteers took several van loads of clothing to Omaha.

The closet serves foster parents and parents whose children live at home but are wards of the court.  It operates by appointment.

People who want to donate or get clothing for foster children can call (402) 617-0667.

You can also log on to their website at: