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Photo contributed by Angie Wheeland / The Northwest Georgia Youth of Tomorrow team stands at their booth during Labor Day in the Street on Sept. 2 in Fort Oglethorpe. They collected more than 30 costumes for their Community Costume Closet.

The idea for the nonprofit came from a couple of Facebook friends who had never met in person but shared a desire to give kids a good Halloween. Then came ideas for free manicures for girls heading back to school, a coat drive and a prom dress consignment.

With the initiatives mounting, they decided to start the nonprofit Northwest Georgia Youth for Tomorrow.

Co-founders Angie Wheeland and Valerie Stansberry are now tackling their first project: the Community Costume Closet.

While growing up in Fort Oglethorpe, Stansberry can remember her parents saying no, she couldn't get something because money was tight.

"I went from not having a whole lot of money when I was growing up to getting my son a new costume every year," said Stansberry, 31. "So I've kind of seen the spectrum."

Wheeland said she can remember that, too. And now that they're both moms, they can't stand telling their kids "no" and want to help parents who may be going through a financial strain.

"As a parent, if there's something even small I have to deny my son, I hate it," Stansberry said.

Their Community Costume Closet is essentially a crowdsourced thrift store. The pair is soliciting donations of old Halloween costumes and, after washing them, will let children pick out costumes at different locations in Catoosa and Walker counties for no charge.

They divided the work of securing different places to collect and distribute the costumes. Wheeland, who lives in Chickamauga, focuses on Catoosa and Stansberry is tackling Walker.

Each library and group they've called — including the Chickamauga Public Library, the Catoosa County Library and the Rossville Public Library — all said "yes" immediately, the pair reported, and will be collecting costumes for the closet until Sept. 30. Though, in preparation for next year Wheeland and Stansberry will be collecting new and used costumes and unopened face paint through the end of October.

They will be at Valley Fest in Flintstone collecting and distributing costumes Sept. 21. Their first large-scale collection at Fort Oglethorpe's Labor Day in the Streets celebration netted more than 30 costumes, said Wheeland.

Ultimately, Stansberry envisions the Costume Closet like a mobile thrift store, setting up wherever they're scheduled.

For more information, reach out to The New Our Walker/Catoosa County Facebook group.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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