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Biggest donation day ever as items come pouring into ‘free store’ for vulnerable women in Chilliwack

‘Before donation day many shelves were bare and now they’re bursting,’ says Heather’s Hope Chest rep
People have a peek at Heather’s Hope Chest, located in a storage unit, during the launch of the program on Nov. 9, 2019. The ‘free store’ is for women transitioning to life on their own and they had their most successful donation day ever on Jan. 21, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

It was their biggest day for donations ever.

Heather’s Hope Chest, a ‘free store’ where vulnerable women venturing out on their own can pick up items for their new home, was flooded with donated goods on Jan. 21.

“It was incredibly successful. It was our best donation day we’ve ever had,” said committee chair Dana Martin. “Before donation day many shelves were bare and now they’re bursting.”

Run by Soroptimist International of Chilliwack, Heather’s Hope Chest 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,” Martin said during the grand opening, back in 2019.

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

Heather’s Hope Chest is located inside Access Mini Storage in Chilliwack. They have two units – one for the ‘free store’ and one for excess items.

The donations on Jan. 21 started coming in before they were even open at 10 a.m. and they didn’t stop for three hours.

“We filled cartload after cartload after cartload. (The team) was unpacking as fast as they could, but they could not keep up,” Martin said.

Kitchen appliances, bedding, towels, dishes and more kept arriving.

When asked why the Jan. 21 donation day was so successful, Martin said they’ve been working hard to get the word out on social media. Clearly that work paid off because nearly everyone who made a donation that day said they heard about Heather’s Hope Chest on Facebook.

Before COVID-19, when the project launched, Martin calculated that it would cost between $700 to $1,000 to buy the cheapest household items to fill a home. Today, that cost would be between $1,000 to $1,500.

“Someone transition from nothing, they don’t have $1,000 or more.”

That’s where Heather’s Hope Chest comes in.

The women who use the program are referred by various local social service agencies. After making an appointment, the women are given exclusive access to ‘shop’ at the store. It typically takes them about an hour to pick out all they need.

Martin said the project would not be alive if not for generous people and businesses in the community who donate items and money.

“We’re always so grateful for the community’s support. Without the community, this project wouldn’t exist.”

They take donations of household items such as: small appliances, linens, dishes and more. Items they always run out of include: coffee pots, crockpots, toasters, kettles, and any sort of baking supplies such as cookie sheets, muffin tins and loaf pans.

Cash donations are also accepted.

The have donation drop-off days on the third Saturday of every month. The next one is Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Heather’s Hope Chest is located at 8989 Charles St.

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Jenna Hauck

About the Author: Jenna Hauck

I started my career at The Chilliwack Progress in 2000 as a photojournalist.
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