Our second tour with Mesa Leadership 2016 was to Helen’s Hope Chest, a special place that is part of Mesa United Way.
What is Helen’s Hope Chest?
“Helen’s Hope Chest fulfills the dreams of thousands of foster children from throughout the East Valley and beyond by providing them with quality clothing, school supplies, books, gift cards, toys, games and more at no cost to their foster parents” (from the website).
Basically, kids enter the foster care system and the foster families do their best to try to take care of the basic necessities. Helen’s Hope Chest provides a free shopping center for foster children so they can “shop” and pick out what they need.
Foster children and their families are able to come into the facility and receive clothes, shoes, books, school supplies and toys.
Around 600 children are helped each month with five new outfits.
Who is Helen? “Helen’s Hope Chest memorializes the life of Helen Paula Simmons, a former foster child who managed to raise a family of her own despite difficult circumstances. Helen and her brother, Walter, were foster children in the 1930s. They lived with the same foster parents for years but were never adopted. Simmons passed away in June 2009. Helen’s Hope Chest honors her memory with a place where children in foster care will have their own “store” where they can pick out whatever they need at no cost. Helen’s family was looking for a way to memorialize Helen Simmons and believes their mom would be proud of Helen’s Hope Chest” (from the website).
There is also a room called John’s Room that is stocked with toys so the children can pick something out for their birthday.
Another big part of Helen’s Hope Chest is JaKelle’s Christmas Box, which was started in 2011 by the family of JaKelle Westergard, who passed away at age 17. Donated toys during the holidays make these foster children’s Christmas bright! Nearly 3,000 children were blessed last year by donations to JaKelle’s Christmas Box!
See more about JaKelle and the Christmas gift program at: http://www.mesaunitedway.org/jakelles-christmas-box
Did you know? Helen’s Hope Chest and JaKelle’s Christmas Box run from donations and volunteers who make it all possible.
Background: “In late 2009, following a significant cut in state funding for foster families, Mesa United Way seized the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of foster and kinship children and youth and their families. A small office was set up like a boutique, offering young people an opportunity to shop for clothing and to receive other necessary items like shoes, hygiene items, backpacks, school supplies and books as well as birthday gifts. In 2010, the first full year of operation for Helen’s Hope Chest, 1,402 children and youth were served” (from Arizona Republic article, May 7, 2015).
For more information on Helen’s Hope Chest or donation needs, go to: http://www.mesaunitedway.org/helens-hope-chest-1