Sara Fender

Founder of Caring Closet

Sara Fender learned how important non-profit work was to helping build and sustain a thriving community while participating in the 2001 Leadership Metro Richmond class. Using what she learned, she was inspired to start Caring Closet in 2006 as she was going through the adoption journey with her son, Sam.  Because her son’s birth mother was unable to afford shoes for her younger daughter, she could not attend school and left the house barefoot.  Through this experience, Sara realized how difficult it was for single moms living in extreme poverty to provide even the most basic necessities for their children. 

When her son was 18 months old, Sara began volunteering with United Methodist Family Services (UMFS) in their residential care Charterhouse school.  While volunteering, she noticed that there was a need for properly fitting, comfortable clothing and shoes, so she started collecting these items.  Soon thereafter, she also started collecting items for various nonprofits including CARITAS and Fresh Start. 

Ten years later, Caring Closet became a 501(c)(3) organization and has continued thriving for the past five years.  Additionally, in 2022, UMFS generously dedicated an almost 8,000 square foot building to house the Caring Closet.  In 2023, Caring Closet served almost 12,000 clients with a weeks’ worth of clothing, and gave out close to 10,000 various types of comfort bags to at-risk families in the Richmond community.  Caring Closet has partnered with numerous businesses, schools, churches as well as other nonprofit organizations, and is proud to have built a strong, interconnected community. 

Sara credits the success of Caring Closet to its co-founders, Jenn and Jody, her husband Jeff and son Sam and the network of volunteers that support Caring Closet’s daily operations.  She is particularly proud that Caring Closet has become an integral part of the community in supporting at-risk families with one of the most basic necessities of life: clothing.