Two local Tucson women, Michele Wright and Michele Bennett, who co-founded a clothing bank for foster children have been recognized as 2023 Angels in Adoption® Honorees by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).

Wright and Bennett were nominated by Congressman Raul Grijalva, who had to submit their names, contact information, and a biography so they could be considered for the program and recognition.

“Every child deserves a safe, nurturing, and stable environment and adoptive families must be given the necessary resources and assistance to provide a loving home,” said Representative Grijalva. “Michele Wright and Michele Bennett have worked tirelessly to fulfill the needs for children and adoptive families through the Spreading Threads Clothing Bank. What they started in their garage is now a program that serves foster and adoptive parents, helping them to get clothing, information, and support across Pima County. It’s an impressive and inspiring undertaking that will leave a lasting legacy of kindness and generosity in our community. I am honored to recognize them and their work.”

Since its inception in 1999, the Angels in Adoption® Leadership Program has upheld a tradition of celebrating the extraordinary efforts of individuals, couples, families, and organizations who work tirelessly to advocate for children, youth, and families. Each year, Angel honorees are selected from nominations of those who have make an extraordinary contribution to adoption, foster care, permanency, and child welfare.

Once selected, Angel honorees are invited to travel to Washington, D.C., for a leadership program to participate in congressional meetings with federal policymakers, receive advocacy and educational training, meet with fellow advocates, and receive recognition at the Angels Celebration Gala held in their honor. Angels in Adoption® is the largest congressional child welfare event in the United States.

Wright and Bennett flew to Washington, D.C., last week on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023, with two of their four adopted children, Nathanial and Joe. While in Washington, D.C., the couple was able to meet with multiple representatives and senators including Raul Grijalva, Mark Kelly, and Kyrsten Sinema.

“To get to talk to these congressional representatives and actually be on their schedule was really exciting,” said Wright. “It was very cool to get to sit down as one of their constituents and tell them what they are doing well and what they need to work on. One of the things I told them is to not just talk to DCS about what’s happening with foster care, but to talk to actual foster parents. You’re seeing democracy at work and how it works. It was seriously one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life.”

Throughout the 25 years the Angels in Adoption® program has been in place, more than 3,000 Angels have received this special honor. The CCAI also awards a select number of National Angels in Adoption® honorees. As the name implies, these are individuals whose contributions in the fields of adoption or foster care have an impact on a national scale.

Wright said she and Bennett have been foster parents for more than 20 years now and that doing what needs to be done for the kids keeps them so busy, they haven’t really had the time to take a look at the rearview mirror and see all they have accomplished together.

“This forced us to stop and look back and realize that we have done some really cool stuff,” Wright said of what she and Bennett have done over the years. “There were also some other nonprofits that wanted to learn from what we are doing. It’s really cool. We’re grassroots and there’s so much to do, but when you look back at how many people we have served, it’s amazing. It made me realize how forward thinking we are and I am really proud of that. It’s inspiring to know that there are so many people who care that are doing this work. I feel very humbled and honored to have been selected. There are so many foster parents I meet all the time. There are just no words.”

Over the last two decades, Wright and Bennett have fostered, and adopted, four children. The two launched Spreading Threads Clothing Bank in 2018 after the State of Arizona cut benefits to foster children and the families that care for them. The cuts negatively impacted the ability for families like theirs to properly cloth the foster children in their care.

“It was so neat to meet all of the people from other states and see what they have done during our trip,” said Wright. “It was really inspiring. It’s also a great segway to remind people during the giving season that we are here and we’re doing what we can to make a difference for these foster kids.”

Since its inception, Spreading Threads Clothing Bank has assisted thousands of children and families in Pima County and Southern Arizona with obtaining the clothing and supplies needed for day-to-day living as well as for school, church, and special events such as prom. They have performed countless emergency pulls, day and night, for children who have entered the foster care system with little to nothing in terms of clothing, school supplies, books and toys.

Spreading Threads is an Arizona-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as well as a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO). That means donors can increase their charitable tax donation for a dollar-for-dollar reduction of their Arizona state tax liability. Individuals may donate up to $526 each year while married couples filing jointly may donate up to $1,051.

The Arizona Foster Care Charitable Tax Credit is separate from other tax credits which means people can donate money in two ways to Spreading Threads to further reduce their state tax liability. The federal tax ID number for Spreading Threads Clothing Bank is 83-1151614 and its State of Arizona QFCO code is 10056.

There are several ways you can make a financial contribution to Spreading Threads Clothing Bank. Donations can be made online or donors can mail a check to Spreading Threads Clothing Bank at P.O. Box 86182, Tucson, AZ, 85754-6182. All monetary donations must be received by April 15, 2024, to qualify for the 2023 tax year.

Donations of new or gently used clothing, school supplies, toys, books, shoes, and personal hygiene products can be dropped in the blue bin at the front of the clothing bank at 2945 N. Flowing Wells, Tucson, AZ, 85705.