Iowa adoptive mom founds thrift shop to help families cover adoption costs

By Patty Knap

Brittany Berrie and her partner Branden Johnson were the recipient of a magnificent gift – a child through adoption in 2021. Brittany’s gratitude led her to fundraise to help other families do the same.

About a dozen years ago, a family relative had a baby in difficult circumstances. Meeting Gracie when she was just three days old, Brittany bonded with the infant through frequent babysitting.

At the time Brittany was 20 and living in Iowa with her parents, who fell in love with Gracie too and were happy to help. The little girl’s birth mother was involved, though the father was not. As the baby grew, Brittany became her main caregiver, and then when she was four years old her legal guardian.

Brittany discussed adopting Gracie with Branden but learned the costs would be exorbitant. A few years later, after having a son, the couple looked into adopting Gracie again, and were again told the costs were high.

“She was part of our family, that was already a fact,” Brittany said, “and we figured we’d just have to wait until she was 18 or until she could be emancipated legally.”

Then at a family wedding, Brittany was talking with a cousin, Cassie Berdone, who had spent time with Gracie. Cassie thought Gracie had already been adopted. When Brittany explained why that had not been possible, they talked about the specifics and differences between legal guardianship and adoption.

Amazingly and unexpectedly, Brittany’s cousin said that if the expense was the only thing preventing an official adoption, she wanted to cover the costs.

“In January of 2021 we hired the attorneys needed to complete Gracie’s adoption,” Brittany recalled, “and six months later it was complete. Oh, what a happy day that was!”

“The checks Cassie signed paid for a lot more than a piece of paper with Gracie’s new name on it,” she said. “She paid for security, permanency and the removal of anxiety and fear.”

Brittany, who with Branden, has two other children, was planning planning a garage sale with her mother, and decided to put the money toward the adoption expenses of an as-yet unknown family. When they shared with friends and neighbors that the sale would benefit adoption, donations of clothes, furniture, lamps, toys, kitchen items, bikes, and more poured in for the garage sale.

The garage sale was such a success that Brittany thought, “We need to do this regularly.”

That idea became a clothes thrift store, right in the couple’s garage.

Then on Facebook Brittany saw a post from an old friend, Cassandra Holdorf, about the adoption process she and her husband Adam were going through to adopt 5- and 7-year-old boys. While these brothers came to the Holdorf family through foster care, there were still thousands of dollars in various expenses involved in adopting them.

Brittany reached out to Cassandra and offered the same act of kindness that had been extended to her – to cover the expenses of adopting.

That joyful experience led to the Johnson’s transforming the four-car garage at the DeWitt, Iowa, home into a giant ongoing garage sale to benefit covering adoption costs for families. Named The Adopted Closet, regular sales are posted on their website and held throughout the year.

In speaking with Pregnancy Help News, Brittany never mentioned the time and work involved in sorting through boxes, bags, and bins full of donations, then setting them out for sale. Organizing, tagging, placing clothes on hangers, and, of course, manning the sale, bagging, and collecting the money are all part of operating The Adopted Closet.

She only spoke of how the community has rallied around, constantly coming forward with donated clothes and offering to help out in other ways.

Now that the word is out in the community, posted in church bulletins, and announced through local organizations, Brittany’s home is a regular drop-off site for anyone who wants their gently used things to be sold for a wonderful cause.

Daughter Gracie enjoys her role in starting the fundraising effort.

“I’m the purpose for all of this,” she said in a report from the local ABC News affiliate. “If I wasn’t here then none of this would happen so I’m happy I get to do this and be a part of this.”

The whole family is involved, including Brittany’s mother, along with friends and other helpers.

The Adopted Closet now has three other drop-off sites, plus offers online shopping and shipping.

The Adopted Closet has now helped cover the legal costs involved in adoption for 10 families in the Dewitt area.

Editor’s note: Patty Knap is a certified pregnancy counselor, faith formation teacher, ABA therapist for autism, and freelance writer from Long Island. This originally appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.