People have a peek at Heather’s Hope Chest, located in a storage unit, during the launch of the program on Saturday. The “free store” is for women transitioning to life on their own. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Heather’s Hope Chest offers Chilliwack women and girls a helping hand

The new ‘free store’ for vulnerable women and girls provides them with household items at no charge

Vulnerable women and girls venturing out on their own now have a free store to help them furnish their new lives thanks to Heather’s Hope Chest.

The new program, run by Soroptimist International of Chilliwack, is a place where women can shop for whatever items they need to make their new home as comfortable and functional as possible.

“Our clients may be leaving a violent relationship, they may be transitioning from a substance use treatment program, or perhaps they’re leaving foster care to start their life on their own,” Dana Martin, committee chair said during the grand opening on Saturday.

“Regardless of the circumstances, when they transition out, Heather’s Hope Chest is here to give them a hand up. We will help them fill their home with all of the basic essentials that they need.”

Heather’s Hope Chest is located entirely within a storage unit. It is not a walk-in store. Clients are referred by social service agencies from throughout the Fraser Valley. After an appointment is made, the woman will come in to the store with her social worker where she has the entire hope chest to herself for as long as she likes to pick the items she needs.

Guests who attended Saturday’s grand opening of Heather’s Hope Chest, located at Access Mini Storage, were surprised to see that the store is not packed to the rafters with bins and boxes of items. Rather, it is a tidy, well-organized shop with plenty of room to walk around. Shelving units line three of the storage unit’s four walls. They are full, but not cluttered, with dishes, pots, pans, and small appliances.

Heather’s Hope Chest is the fourth of its kind in B.C. It is named after Heather Rollins, the longest standing member of the local chapter.

The program began in 2012 in Victoria with Anney’s Closet, run by Soroptimist International of Victoria Westshore. Following Anney’s came Bea’s Kloset in the Tri Cities and then SIAM’s Closet in Abbotsford.

“These projects are changing women’s lives and we, like the others, rely 100 per cent on donations of very gently used household items,” Martin said.

Before the grand opening on Nov. 9, a few women had already shopped at the hope chest. They are always looking for donations of cash and household items to restock their shelves as needed.

Items people can donate to Heather’s Hope Chest include: towels, dish racks, dinnerware, brand new mops and brooms, bed and kitchen linens, cutlery, waste baskets and toiletries. If you don’t have anything lying around to donate, you can buy a new laundry basket and fill it with cleaning products, a toilet brush, foil, plastic wrap, etc.

“Rule of thumb to follow: if you wouldn’t want to receive it, or wouldn’t feel confident giving it as a re-gift, it’s not suitable for Heather’s Hope Chest,” the brochure reads.

They do not take donations of clothing, but cash donations are needed to help purchase new items, plus the rental of the storage unit.

“There are some things we need to purchase such as pillows. Nobody wants to sleep on a donated pillow,” Martin added.

Access Mini Storage has given Heather’s Hope Chest and additional, smaller unit for them to store additional items at a very discounted rate.

Mayor Ken Popove said it’s a “team effort” to make programs like this successful.

“We support all these little community groups that do this kind of work. If we can help one person, that’s a win,” he said.

For more information, including arranging drop-off or pick-up of donations, email heathershopechest44@gmail.com.

READ MORE: Women work for women to make dreams come true


 

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Dana Martin with Soroptimist of Chilliwack cheers with guests during the opening of Heather’s Hope Chest on Saturday. The “free store” is for women transitioning to life on their own. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

One of the client’s messages in the store’s guest book. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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