The Hangar provides clothing, supplies to children in foster care

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Hangar is a fitting name for the facility in which Amanda Manzanilla and her volunteers operate a clothing closet for children entering foster care.

Manzanilla, who created The Hangar as an all-volunteer non-profit under the Shelby County Foster Parent Association, sees it as an operation that functions with many moving internal parts, much like an airplane hangar.

“This houses all things foster care,” she said of the facility, which is located in a former church building off Shelby County 26 in Columbiana. “It’s just a picture of partnership and community, and how much it takes a village.”

One part of the operation is the clothing closet, which provides clean, gently used clothing, shoes, jackets and swimsuits to children and teenagers when they enter foster or kin care.

Another part is the New to Care Closet, which provides a new bag, pajamas, socks, underwear, diapers and wipes, infant formula, toiletries, a pillow, a blanket, a book and a stuffed animal to children entering foster and kin care at any time, day or night.

“It’s tangible stuff, but it makes such a difference,” Manzanilla said. “Everything in this room is new, on purpose.”

The Hangar’s close proximity to the Shelby County Department of Human Resources makes the immediate New to Care Closet visits easier, Manzanilla said.

The Hangar partners with New York-based Pajama Program to stock the New to Care Closet with brand-new pajamas in varying sizes, along with Bundles of Hope Diaper bank for diapers and Fleecing the Flock for fleece blankets.

The Hangar also offers sensory items, social opportunities, and sporting and special interest equipment through special sponsorships and programs.

Back-to-school sponsorships provide school supplies, backpacks, personalized water bottles, new shoes, socks and underwear for children and teens in grades 4K through college.

The Operation Christmas Stocking project provides each child and teen with a monogrammed stocking and stocking stuffers.

The Cakes and Cupcakes Across Alabama program coordinates sponsorships for birthday cakes, gifts and celebrations tailored to children’s individual needs.

The teen sponsorships include birthday wishes, prom or homecoming, packing and moving supplies, dorm or apartment setup and aging-out support.

The Hangar relocated from a smaller facility in Pelham to the larger location in Columbiana in December 2018, allowing the organization to expand its services.

In addition to the closet rooms, The Hangar consists of a kitchen stocked with snacks, a playroom with sensory-friendly toys and a TV, a bathroom with a shower and ample warehouse space for toys and back-to-school supplies children can pick out at designated times during the year.

Manzanilla and her fellow foster parent volunteers also utilize the facility for their monthly meetings and training sessions.

Lisa Ledbetter, who went through a foster parent training class together in 2009, heaped praised on Manzanilla for her work behind-the-scenes to ensure The Hangar continues to serve foster families from Shelby and surrounding counties.

“She works tirelessly for resources and donations and works with state people to change polices relating to children in our state,” Ledbetter said. “She does it all quietly without any fanfare or recognition. I have never seen a human being with this much drive and passion.”

Manzanilla said The Hangar is her way of meeting the needs of children and teenagers in foster or kin care beyond what just her family can do.

“We can’t foster every single foster child, but by partnering with DHR, we are able to serve (many) teens and children,” she said. “I couldn’t make this work without our foster parents.”

The SCFPA accepts monetary donations and donations of clothing and other items for The Hangar.

For more information about the organization, donations and upcoming events, visit @SCFAPA on Facebook.