By Hannah Maine —
Q: What is Helen’s Hope Chest?
Helen’s Hope Chest is an organization that provides basic necessities for children and teens in foster and kinship care. Helen’s is set up like a clothing boutique where the families can bring the kids to “shop” for free.
Q: Who does Helen’s Hope Chest serve?
Helen’s serves kids ages 0-18 who are being cared for by someone who is not their parents.This includes foster, kinship, guardianship, and tribal foster care.
Q: Why did Helen’s Hope Chest choose to help children in foster care?
In 2009, the funding for foster family stipends was cut because of the recession. Mesa United Way heard about this and learned that foster families were closing their licenses because they didn’t think they could afford to foster anymore.At the same time, the number of kids in care began to rise due to a larger number of neglect reports.Mesa United Way wanted to find a way to help the families by reducing the financial burden of taking in a child.They created a clothing closet that very quickly out grew the small space it began in.Helen’s is now in a beautiful building where the “store” is available for families that are not only in financial need but are perhaps just in need of a friendly place that understands the issues facing the children in their care.
Q: What are some of the items children receive?
Helen’s began by giving gently-used clothing.We now have expanded to include books, quilts, hygiene supplies, birthday gifts, back to school items, and Christmas gifts.We do this through multiple programs, including Jakelle’s Christmas Box.
Q: What types of programs or events does Helen’s Hope Chest hold?
In July, HHC’s K to College program provides backpacks and school supplies to over 1,500 youth as well as the opportunity for foster youth entering college to outfit their dorm rooms and get prepared them for the start of the new school year.
In December, Jakelle’s Christmas Box allows foster/kinship parents to choose gifts,books, stuffed animals, and stocking stuffers for each child. In 2018, HHC provided gift packages for 2,975 children and teens.
John’s Room is another special program that is dedicated to the main job of a child– to play. Children and teens visit John’s Room to pick gifts for their birthdays and other special days, including celebrating adoptions.
HHC’s newest initiative, Foster360 (F360), provides wrap around services to young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who have experienced foster care. Foster360 acts as a liaison between these young adults and their care team, providing accountability, encouraging sustainability, and teaching interdependency. The main goal of F360 is to prevent homelessness in youth aging out of foster care.
All programs of Helen’s Hope Chest are designed to provide a “normal” experience for youth, wherever they are in their foster care journey. HHC serves approximately 650 youth per month, reducing the financial impact on foster families, kinship caregivers, and guardians while improving the self-esteem of the children and young adults.
Q: How can people help Helen’s Hope Chest?
Donations of gently-used clothing, shoes, and books are always needed. We also need new hygiene supplies, socks, and underwear.For John’s Room, we need new toys and gifts for all ages, especially teens.
Financial donations are eligible for the Foster Care Tax Credit of up to $500 per individual or $1,000 per married couple.Financial donations are used to help fill critical needs for the families and youth.Donations can be made online at www.helenshopechest.org.
Helen’s is always in need of outgoing and hard-working people who want to volunteer their time to help.Volunteers accept and sort donations, assist families and children during their visits, help run workshops, and help at special events.