You have a family in Compassion Closet

Farragut-area location meeting serious foster/adoptive family needs

The Compassion Closet, located near Farragut, helps provide clothing and other necessities for new foster or adoptive parents. From left are director Julie Gillen and fellow volunteers Kristy Smith and Melissa Cox who operate the facility — typically by appointment only.
Local adoptive and foster families have a loving and generous resource in The Compassion Closet. The all-volunteer organization’s third location near Farragut was opened at 11020 Kingston Pike, in a suite behind the FISH pantry, due to high donations.

It is filled with clothing items, arranged by season and size, along with shoes and many other tangible examples of the community’s generosity. Items also include car seats, accessories, blankets and even furniture to help families — many of whom find themselves suddenly with a child or children, for a variety of reasons. All items are free of charge.

Some may be foster children, taken quickly from difficult or neglectful circumstances, family members who have taken in one or more children, or perhaps a yearned-for adoption has come through sooner than expected. Regardless of the circumstances, many times those children arrive with little or no clothing, diapers or any other necessities.

“We provide something to give relief for the transition,” explained volunteer Melissa Cox, who fosters children while also the mother of three children — one adopted and two biological.

“We had a 10-year-old one time who was sent to us with (size) 2T clothing,” Cox said.

In addition to mismatched sizes, what clothing the children do have “may be soiled,” added fellow volunteer Kristy Smith, who has four biological children, two adopted, and also has a history of fostering.

Smith said she “personally knows how difficult it can be” to quickly take in foster children. “We did it all on our own, we didn’t have the resources.”

It is exactly those kinds of situations the ministry began addressing more than five years ago when it was founded by Hardin Valley resident Julie Gillen, who serves as Compassion Closet director.

“My husband and I attended an adoption conference in 2013, because the topic was very close to our hearts, having four adopted children of our own,” Gillen said.

A big part of the conference described how churches could get involved in the adoption/fostering process, which included making sure the families would have much needed resources.

“I already had a basement full of clothes,” she said with a smile.

For more information, to donate or to get involved, visit or e-mail

Cox, who has fostered for six years, said as soon as she knew about it, she wanted to be part of the ministry, too, “where foster parents could get everything they needed, all in one place.”

Donations poured in and Compassion Closet has grown so much it is

“We are 100 percent donator operated,” said Cox. Compassion Closet is always in need of contributions, most especially for new pajamas, underwear, socks, diapers, blankets, personal hygiene items and even cash or gift card donations if possible. “We like to be able to provide gift cards to teens if we can,” said Gillen. “We love for them to be able to shop for themselves. It gives them dignity to be able to pick their own clothing, and for it to be nice and new, too.”

“We also want it to be able to reflect their value, and to let them know they matter,” added Smith.

The trio, who staff Compassion Closet at set times weekly and are on call 24 hours a day, see the big picture in how they help the community.

“We are blessed by God to be able to do what we do,” said Cox.