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When children are placed in a foster home, they often arrive with only the clothes on their backs. Foster/kinship families accept these children at all hours, including the middle of the night, and attempt to provide a home to these children with their own limited resources. Financial assistance is provided but there is oftentimes a delay between accepting children and receiving funds to help support them. 


A community foster closet attempts to bridge this gap. We hope to act as a resource that foster/kinship families can quickly visit upon receiving a placement and get items these children need such as: clothing, shoes, carseats, and other basic needs, free of charge. Through the generous donation of these items from our local community, foster families will be able to use their own resources in other ways while the children are in their homes. 


Seeking to follow Christ's example to love our neighbor as ourselves and to take care of orphans, the Joy Closet is a tangible way that people in our community can share their resources with others who will be greatly impacted by them.



Heather Gray
Executive Director,
Founder, President

Meet Heather! She is the wife of Marcus and the mother of Raeleigh, Josie and Hallie!  In 2015, Heather and Marcus felt called to adopt out of foster care.  They didn't exactly know what this would look like, but they began on the journey.  In the spring of 2018, they welcomed their first placement of two and those girls became forever Grays in 2019!  This birthed Heather's love for foster care.  She was on the board of directors for the Heart Gallery of Tennessee as well as on the board of directors for the Upper Cumberland Foster Closet.

In May 2021, Heather felt called back home to the Hopkinsville area to open a foster closet, similar to the Upper Cumberland Foster Closet.  She understands the needs that foster/kinship families have from first hand experience as a foster parent and as a support to foster/kinship families.  Her goal with Joy Closet is for all parents and kids to have their needs met both tangibly and non tangibly.  She absolutely loves using her gifts of hospitality to love on others!

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Tressy Wells
Development Director; Board Member

Meet Tressy! She is the wife of Gerame and the mom of Tate, Tucker, Trent, Tycen, Josey and Jillian! She has a degree in education and taught for several years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. In 2018, when their youngest at the time was 8 years old, Tressy began to feel God calling her to adoption.  She talked to Gerame about it and he was on board from the beginning! They began the process is early 2019 and brought sweet Jillian home from China in January of 2020.


The process of adoption opened Tressy’s eyes to the needs of children not only around the world, but also right here in our community. She has a heart for all children and is honored and excited to have been asked to serve on the board for the Joy Closet.  She is looking forward to doing whatever she can to love, support and encourage foster, kinship and adoptive families in any way possible!

Kristi Pryor
Closet & Finance Director


Meet Kristi!  She is married to Ryan & together they have a beautiful, blended family. She has worked with small children all her adult life. This gave her the opportunity to stay home and raise her own family. In 2015, she received an unexpected phone call from DCBS to foster her great nephews.  She was told she had 15 minutes to arrive at their current location, or the boys would be placed into the DCBS’s custody and likely separated. She called her husband on the way to the location. Ryan’s reply was simply “If it were me, I would want someone to pick me up”.  So that is exactly what she did. The boys have been with Ryan & Kristi since that day with their Adoption being finalized in April 2019. Adoption chose the Pryor’s & they feel extremely Blessed for this opportunity. 


When Kristi was asked to become a part of Joy Closet, she felt very honored. Kristi knows the struggle to provide for a child(ren) without notice. There were times when Ryan & Kristi just needed someone to relate and/or validate their journey. Kristi’s hope is for Joy Closet to provide the basic necessities and support for families in similar situations. She hopes the with Joy Closet opening, more families will feel supported and encouraged to open their homes and hearts to the many children that are without placements. Everyone can help with fostering in some way, every child deserves to have a safe, secure home setting to thrive within. 

Melinda Szymanski
Programs Director


Melinda is married to Ron and mother to Shelby. She has been a social worker since 1993. She obtained her BSW from Murray State University and after several years of working, she earned her MSW from Western Kentucky University.  In 1993, she began working for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  She began on the frontline doing child abuse/neglect investigations. Later she worked in the area of foster care/adoption. Altogether she worked worked for the Cabinet for 29 years. Fifteen of those years were spent working with foster families. She saw the great need for support services to foster families and was a strong advocate for those she worked with. She retired in October 2022. After taking a short break, she came on board at Joy Closet as the Programs Director. 


She is very honored to work for Joy Closet and continue to provide services to foster and kinship families. She hopes to use her years of experience and knowledge to help develop programs that will provide support for teens aging out of the foster care system and children in crisis.


Jay Owen
Board Chair

Meet Jay! He is the husband of Hopkinsville native Alyssa, and father to three wonderful children: Nathan, Amelia, and Kinsley. Jay and Alyssa began their journey together working at Centri-Kid camp. They were able to minister to students and chaperones all summer long, teaching them about scripture and what it looks like to have a relationship with Jesus. 


In 2017 Jay and Alyssa received their first foster placement of two young boys. They were able to provide those boys love and care while their mother got the help she needed. Within the next 8 months, they would have 7 other children come and go in their home. They adopted an awesome little boy from Foster care 2 years later. The Owen family is excited to help serve this community!

Kathy Vaughan

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Meet Kathy!  She has a huge heart for children of all ages as she's retired from Christian County Public Schools and Fort Campbell High School (DOD) where she had worked as an elementary and high school librarian, information media specialist, and technology coordinator.  She worked with thousands of students during her teaching career and sponsored the Beta Club while at Christian County High School. This led to leadership positions at the state level with Kentucky Beta Clubs. Since 2009 she has volunteered with Living Waters for the World (LWW) helping to train, equip and support volunteers in forming global, clean-water mission partnerships.  As a Health Educator, she and her husband, Jerry, traveled to Haiti three times to work with in-country partners to build, operate and maintain clean water filtration systems and to teach local health educators the importance of using clean water in their communities.  She is part of the LWW Leadership Team and Clean Water U instructors.  She lost Jerry in 2021 after 55 years of marriage.  


Kathy began volunteering with Joy Closet in September of 2021.  Having family members who came through the foster care, custodial care and adoption process, she really appreciates those who open their homes to children in need.  She is honored and excited to serve on the board and to support foster, kinship and adoptive families, helping them meet many of the needs for their journey.

Wendy Westerfield


Meet Wendy. She has been happily married to Matthew for 18 years and is the mommy to Wilson, Mollie, and Savannah. She is a fitness Instructor, Children’s Book Author (Adventures with Piggy), and enjoys working at Christian Way Farm. Her family felt called to Adoption in 2016 and after numerous failed adoptions, they felt like the Lord was shifting their hearts to Foster Care.  They have been a foster family for 3 years. While this journey isn’t always easy, the love for children and relationships with their families makes it well worth it.  


After the Westerfields received the call for their first placement, they had no time to prepare for the little one. After family, friends and their local Foster Closet rallied together they were able to provide this little one with everything she needed. That's when they realized the importance of having a local support system like Joy Closet. Wendy can’t wait to see how God uses the Joy Closet to bless many other families in our area,  not only with items needed for each kid, but for the education, empowerment and encouragement for foster parents,  events to build relationships, and people who want to rally alongside these families who understand the good, bad, happy, sad that goes along with this calling. 

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Raquel Brown
Board Member

Chris Gilkey
Board Member

Meet Chris!  He is married to his wonderful wife, Kayce and are approaching their 10 year marriage anniversary.  They have one son, Brooks who is 2 ½ and their pride and joy. 

Chris has worked for the Christian County Public Schools for the past 22 years as a middle and high school teacher, athletic coach, club sponsor, assistant principal of two schools, and has been working with at-risk students in the CCPS Alternative Programs for the past 9 years.  Currently, Chris is the Principal of Christian County Day Treatment and Cumberland Hall School.  He is very excited to join the Joy Closet board to further assist children and families in need.

Bonnie Lynch
Board Member

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