Helen Paula Simmons and her brother Walter were placed in foster care during the Great Depression. The two grew up there feeling like they were never wanted. When Helen married and had children, she determined that no matter how tough times got she would never give them up—and times did get tougher. Ultimately, Helen was left alone to raise her two daughters after the death of her husband.
When Helen passed away in 2009, the girls found a piece of paper in their mother’s belongings. On it was written, “Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.” Her two daughters had great admiration for their mother’s determination and strength during their trying times and wanted to do something to honor her memory. That scrap of paper inspired a way to memorialize their mother, and Helen’s Hope Chest was born.
Helen’s Hope Chest provides basic needs for children in foster care. Their purpose is to help relieve some of the financial burden placed on foster care families incurred when they take on the responsibility of a foster child or children. Foster care also includes kinship families— that is, children being raised by their grandparents or another relative other than a parent. The number of kinship foster families is almost equal to that of the non-kinship foster families. Helen’s Hope Chest can give aid in all of these foster care scenarios.
The organization opened its tiny office-boutique in an old building provided by the City of Mesa, where volunteers began collecting donations of clothing and other necessities. 2010 was the first year of the organization’s full operation.
By 2012 Helen’s Hope Chest had expanded beyond the office-boutique and moved to a building on Stapley Drive. It wasn’t long before they outgrew that space as well and in April 2015 moved into their new 8,000 square foot building located at 126 E. University in Mesa, thanks to the support of the City of Mesa and Gorman & Co.
The organization depends on the generosity of the public for volunteer help and donations of gently used clothing, school supplies, backpacks, books, and toys. Clothing of all sizes, especially boys’ clothing, is always in demand. All donations are greatly appreciated, especially those of socks and underwear since these must be new. Donated clothing is sorted by volunteers and anything that isn’t used by Helen’s Hope Chest is passed on to other organizations. Nothing is ever wasted. Everything is recycled in some way.
What makes Helen’s Hope Chest special is their personal approach to the foster care situation. Children visiting the facility can select outfits and accessories for themselves from the clothing racks. They can also select books from the library room and pick out toys and games from the toy room. There is never a charge for anything taken by a foster child or fostering family.
Specific donation needs and requests are listed on the Helen’s Hope Chest website at www.helenshopechest.org along with more information about the organization. Donation drop off hours and contact information are listed as well. Visit Helen’s Hope Chest Facebook page where you can find out more about their activities and events and service projects, or contact Susan Schneck, Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.